Sci-fi style transportation is coming to a city near you | Metro

I was interviewed by Daniel Casillas of Metro newspaper for an article “Sci-fi style transportation is coming to a city near you“. Article selection below:


“The major new technology change is the introduction of autonomous vehicles (AVs), first on high-end cars, and then through all new vehicles, before eventually replacing all cars. This will greatly increase safety, and as deployment becomes widespread, road capacity will be increased,” explained David Levinson, author of the book “The End of Traffic and the Future of Transport.”

But how can we get faster and more efficient transport systems? According to the experts, we need a combination of broad computer control and a move from fossil fuels to electricity. These advancements would largely accomplish both goals, particularly if the remaining oil and coal-fired generating plants were replaced by cleaner and cheaper alternatives. This combination would make personal transportation faster, greener and cheaper.


Metro sat down with David Levinson, author of the book “The End of Traffic and the Future of Transport,” to discuss his views on the new age of transportation.

Do you see flying cars as a real option of transportation in the near future?

No, not in the near future; I think we are decades away from widespread use. While in some ways flying cars are simpler (there is more space up there than down here, so there’s a reduced likelihood of crashing), in other ways, they are more complex, and ensuring safety and stability will require a lot of proof. The energy requirements are probably also greater, as takeoff is energy intensive.

What are the main challenges for the new ways of transportation?

Getting the technology right is the main challenge. While already automated vehicles (AVs) are safer than human drivers, there is still uncertainty. Ensuring that sensors are reliable enough and the algorithms are good enough that humans don’t need to pay attention at all is the critical turning point. The costs will come down with mass production of the sensors, and if we can remove the steering wheel and brakes from human control, we can make the car both less expensive and safer. But deployment is a gradual process. It won’t happen all at once.

How can we get faster and more efficient transport systems?

Most cities in the world do not price their roads, they are allocated as first-come, first-served. Thus we get congestion when we underprice roads. For most other goods, we charge more in peak times (think about airlines, hotels, restaurants, movie theaters, and even public transport). A few cities like London, Stockholm, and Singapore are experimenting with road pricing, and this is an important solution to the congestion problem to better balance loads across the network.

Do you see the popularization of cleaner fuels among new transport? 

I expect electric vehicles to become more common over the coming decades. We are already seeing some European countries implementing a phase out of the internal combustion engine and gasoline for environmental reasons, but we also need to keep in mind that electric vehicles are simpler and less expensive than traditional gasoline-powered cars. The main drawback has been the large battery requirements in terms of space and the cost of batteries, but energy efficiency from batteries has steadily been getting better and charging stations are more widespread. The popularity of the new Tesla, with hundreds of thousands of pre-orders for a vehicle more than a year away, indicates the popularity of such cars once they become affordable

—Daniel Casillas 

9 Apple software problems

I first wrote this six months ago, but it sat in my drafts bin. I have updated and posted it as a record of issues with Apple software.

There is a classic tradeoff between economies of scale, which bigger organizations can exploit to lower costs, and span of control, which makes it harder for management to keep the eye on the ball. I am a long-time Apple User (Since 1981), and have gone through ups and downs. I am not keen on switching platforms or ecosystems, and of course, like everyone, am somewhat sucked into Google-world if only because of work. But why are these problems:

  1. Mail, after moving a message to Archive, Mail quickly moves it back to the inbox for a brief time before moving it back to Archive. This might have something to do with Gmail, but this behavior did not used to appear.
  2. Buying an app for a kid (subject to restrictions so they cannot buy their own apps) in my family on their iPad (an old hand-me-down without TouchID) requires the same password be entered accurately at least 4 times. Sometimes TouchID doesn’t work on parent’s iPhone to approve, instead another password must be entered. I would think 2 passwords (tops) should be sufficient. I suspect this is a problem with Apple ID services not talking to each other, so that there is one required for buying and one required for asking parents and then it forgets and then it forgets again? If I remember I instead buy on my device and it shows up on theirs using only TouchID. But this is not natural
  3. There are no parental controls on apps on the Apple TV (e.g. blocking YouTube). Why can’t I switch states to separate adults from kids, or who is watching on a shared device. My kids should have access to different GameCenter statistics than I do.
  4. iCloud Storage isn’t shared across the Family. If I have extra iCloud storage, family members should be able to use. Music has a family plan, why not storage?
  5. Music on “Computers” on AppleTV is unsearchable, and unbrowsable for large libraries
  6. TV Shows on “Computers” organize by show and season, not show (with season as a submenu), making it difficult to search. I have switched to Plex for TV Shows and Movies (but Plex has its own issues requiring renaming TV show files for compliance). I do use “Music” (i.e. Apple Music) for Music on the AppleTV, but don’t generally search my library with it and instead use Plex for my media. Searching by show and then season used to be better several years ago before an OS upgrade.
  7. Buffering issues on high resolution home movies streamed only on my home network, in the middle of the movie. Really? Even after switching to Plex. I can AirPlay a large HD movie file from QuickTime to AppleTV, but cannot stream the same file when requesting it via AppleTV (using either the Computers App via HomeSharing) or Plex. Why can I push but not pull?
  8. Two step verification is excessively requesting verification, asking me for verification on the same device multiple times, especially if I use a VPN. It seems to be related to cookie settings. There ought to be a better way so I don’t get the cookies I don’t want and do get the cookies I do. E.g. some way to identify verification cookies (from Apple, Google, DropBox) as distinct from ad-tracking cookies.
  9. iTunes has had much ink spent on it over the years, I will not add much more. I am sure they are working on it, and Apple Music seems to have settled down for me since all of my songs are now available, rather than just 25,000. Also I more or less gave up. But paying attention to Beats Music, rather than just getting the software working, is a misallocation of resources from the consumer perspective.



Problems that went away:

  1. Messages doesn’t work on one of my Macs at home. It works everywhere else. It just crashes on, or shortly after, startup. Why? [I will go with disk corruption on this … the hard drive subsequently failed. Fortunately backed up]
  2. Hangs on desktop. With an SSD Fusion drive. Why? [see above]
  3. Battery drain on iPhone 6s. I got rid of this once by wiping and reinstalling, but I don’t want to do that again. Some app is badly behaved I guess, but which? I have tried all the battery preservation tricks, and they seem to help, but I would like to have a fully featured phone (with background updates, and T-Mobile WiFi, and all my apps launched) without running out of battery in late afternoon. [I don’t know why, it just went away]
  4. Home Sharing hangs for some reason. This is on a local network through an Apple Airport Wireless device with a library on an iMac that is never asleep. I get messages like “Home Sharing is not available” and have to restart iTunes to get it back. [I stopped using Home Sharing directly as I switched to Plex for media].