Driverless car navigates Berlin streets

AP says: Driverless car navigates Berlin streets:

“By KIRSTEN GRIESHABER, Associated Press – Tue Sep 20, 10:52 am ET
BERLIN – It can talk, see, drive and no longer needs a human being to control it by remote. The car of the future — completely computer-controlled — is on the streets of Berlin.
All summer, researchers from the city’s Free University have been testing the automobile around the German capital.
The vehicle maneuvers through traffic on its own using a sophisticated combination of devices, including a computer, electronics and a precision satellite navigation system in the trunk, a camera in the front, and laser scanners on the roof and around the front and rear bumpers.
“The vehicle can recognize other cars on the road, pedestrians, buildings and trees up to 70 meters (yards) around it and even see if the traffic lights ahead are red or green and react accordingly,” Raul Rojas, the head of the university’s research group for artificial intelligence, told reporters at a presentation Friday.
“In fact, the car’s recognition and reaction to its environment is much faster than a human being’s reaction.”
The scientists have worked on their research car, a Volkswagen Passat worth euro400,000 ($551,800) with lots of built-in special technology, for four years.
Several other groups have also been working on such technology recently, notably Google, which has been testing a robotic Toyota Prius in Nevada.
“There’s a big trend for completely computer-controlled cars — many companies and research centers in several countries are working on it and it is hard to say, who’s got the most-developed vehicle at the moment,” Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, a professor for automotive economics at the University of Duisburg-Essen, told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Dudenhoeffer estimated that with the technology advances, it could only take another decade for the fully automatic cars to start becoming available for consumers. “Even today’s cars are often partially computer-controlled, for example when it comes to parking or emergency brakes.””

Commentary on ‘Towards financially sustainable mass transit systems’

I wrote ‘Towards financially sustainable mass transit systems‘ about a week ago. This has generated much commentary. I list some of it below:

A Political Economy of Access: Infrastructure, Networks, Cities, and Institutions by David M. Levinson and David A. King
A Political Economy of Access: Infrastructure, Networks, Cities, and Institutions by David M. Levinson and David A. King

Human Transit: should transit agencies “retrench” to become “profitable”? My reply here

The Transport Politic: A Note on Transportation Subsidies. My reply here

Second Ave. Sagas: From LI Bus, a case study in the purpose of transit. My reply here Should Public Transit Agencies Strive for Profitability?

Enviro Boys: A great article on financially sustainable mass transit systems

Pedestrian ObservationsThe Option of Profitable Transit

Linklist: September 22, 2011

Tyler Cowen: Do all serious economists favor a carbon tax?: ” I say no. While I personally favor such a policy, here are my reservations”

PC Magazine: NASA Unveils $1.6 Billion ‘Space Taxi’ Plan : “NASA on Monday unveiled a plan that will allocate $1.61 billion to private companies that will transport U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station and low Earth orbit. The program, which will run from July 2012 to April 2014, will provide funds to multiple companies, which must design and maintain spacecraft, launch vehicles, launch services, ground and mission operations, and recovery.”

Transit 2.0

Augsburg LRT (transit vehicle wrapper)
Augsburg LRT (transit vehicle wrapper)

Transit has several sources of revenue. One of course is the farebox. Another is advertising. While this is relatively small, it could grow. A TRB funded study (TCRP 133) makes a number of recommendations to increase this share of revenue. Just as much content on the internet, in newspapers, and in magazines is subsidized by advertising, some transportation service is subsidized by advertising as well, and more could be. This phenomenon of advertising supported services is encapsulated in the famous recent quote “If you’re not paying for it, you are the product.”
Transit advertising comprises several major components. One I will call “internal” (the industry must have a term of art for this, but I don’t see it) inside the vehicle or station, aimed at customers, the other (“external”) is on the vehicle or outside at bus stops, bus benches, etc. aimed mostly at non-customers.
Historically, internal advertising has been static. With smart-payment cards, we now know who is on the vehicle or in station, and with RFID tags we could even know where they are sitting. Advertising could be customized.
Department store magnate John Wanamaker is reputed to have said “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” But now, just as with the internet, advertising could be customized. Electronic screens instead of cardboard can provide dynamic advertising customized to both the transit user and the location of the vehicle. It should be more effective. It might be more profitable (if the ability to sell advertising outweighs the extra costs). Both captive and choice riders are the classic “captive” audience, they can turn their heads, but can’t really escape.
Users should appreciate this because it can (1) be more useful [i.e. advertising is not inherently bad, it might inform you of a product you actually would want but were unaware of, or of a discount on the product], and (2) the extra revenue from the advertising can keep fares down.
There are other, less innovative, but still possibly lucrative sources of funds. Station naming rights are generally a bad idea from a wayfinding perspective, but station sponsorships (such as Apple in Chicago) may help.