What sort of public and passenger transport will be available in 2045? (2/11)

2. What sort of public and passenger transport will be available in 2045?

  • Do you see a range of different public and passenger transport service types or a convergence to a narrower range?
  • Can you comment on how the transition might occur (i.e. what the transport system might look like in 2025, and 2035?)

In terms of public transport services, as I said, large cities will probably have high frequency services, commuter rail, metro, light rail, bus transit types of services with frequencies no worse than 10 minutes, probably on the order of 5 minutes. But if frequencies are going to be longer, people who have a choice won’t accept that because, why wait when they can get a taxi?

Taxis will be relatively inexpensive. Because they are automated, no need to pay  for labour. Because the vehicles are smaller, they are less expensive. Because, if they are managed well, they are in service a lot of the time, they are not wasting capital just sitting around.

So I’m thinking that while public transport will be available it will not be a public transport service as we think of it. It certainly won’t be publicly owned or managed, it will still be regulated by the public sector.

I think by 2045 we will be there as automated vehicles become standard. My timeline is that a customer could buy high-end automated vehicles about 2020 and automation will be mandatory in new vehicles by 2030, and  by 2040, non-automated vehicles will be phased out. [By automation I mean self-driving in many circumstances most of the time, and ‘many’ and ‘most’ asymptotically converge to ‘every’ and ‘all’ over this time period as software (and hardware) get better]

This will happen faster for taxis and freight, and other industries with high fleet turnover, as they are motivated. So I can see maybe by 2025 we start to see fleets of automated taxis, by 2035 all taxi services will be automated and that change may have played out. Clearly this is not an instantaneous transition, it will take several years, it will happen sooner in some places than others, it depends on the price of labour and the regulatory framework.

An island like New Zealand has the advantage of not having so many vehicles, there it’s very easy to regulate out of country vehicles, so they could convert faster than say the United States, or continental Europe, because it’s an island, and I think that’s something that is important. Other island countries have that advantage of fast fleet conversion as well. But the benefits of converting over are so great, in terms of safety, in terms of lower labour costs.

Carbuyers are going to convert to automated vehicles at the same time as they are converting to electric vehicles in all likelihood, because when a carbuyers is in the market for a new car, most will have both of those things bundled, they don’t have to be bundled, but they will be.

The environmental advantages of EVs will lead regulators to require new vehicles to be electric. Similarly, I don’t see why regulators will continue to allow non-automated vehicles beyond a certain point. The traditional modes, walking and biking will still exist, I don’t think that’s going to go away. Biking will probably be more popular, given the biking environment will be nicer, as the vehicles with which they are competing for roadspace will all be automated and less likely hit them. Similarly with walking, but especially with biking. I’d expect bike share will start to pick up in urban areas that have been more car dominated historically. In suburban areas distances are still pretty large.