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If cars could drive themselves, how many would we need?


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#1 Magoo

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Posted 21 March 2014 - 01:51

...that is the interesting question posed in a new story in The Atlantic, which challenges the very concept of individual vehicle ownership. What do we think about this? 

 

 

 

http://www.theatlant...we-need/284549/



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#2 Romulan

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Posted 21 March 2014 - 02:29

[In the United States] ". . .the average private vehicle is in use less than 10 percent of the time."

 

I keep flip-flopping between emotions after reading the above.  I can't decide if I'm properly impressed or unimpressed.

 

. . . . .

 

"Based on their model, the authors, led by Kevin Spieser of MIT, calculated that at most times of the day, a relatively modest fleet of 200,000 vehicles would provide residents with cars within just a few minutes. The problems come at rush hour, when a fleet of 200,000 would send wait times skyrocketing above the hour mark. To keep wait times under 20 minutes during rush hour, they estimate Singapore would need a fleet of about 300,000. By comparison, in 2011 there were nearly 800,000 passenger vehicles in operation in the city."

 

So, roughly 200k in typical use and an additional 100k at peak demand.  Can anyone see how auto manufacturers are going to let go of 66% of their business without a fight?



#3 gruntguru

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Posted 21 March 2014 - 02:45

Bad news for the Taxi industry! No drivers required.

 

Share riding would be much easier thanks to computer sheduling. That would bring the Singapore numbers down even further.

 

The vehicles will all be electric and will autonomously dock themselves into fast-charging stations whenever they are not in use. Inductive charging loops under roads is another possibility.



#4 Ross Stonefeld

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Posted 21 March 2014 - 12:03

 

 

So, roughly 200k in typical use and an additional 100k at peak demand.  Can anyone see how auto manufacturers are going to let go of 66% of their business without a fight?

 

That was my instinctive reaction to just the thread title. The comparison may be poor but the first example I could think of was the difficulties Tesla faces with the dealership industry.



#5 desmo

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Posted 21 March 2014 - 13:43

The private automobile will one way or another eventually become rare and then presumably extinct.  I don't think the auto industry can fight this over the long term, it will just happen. Private cars already make little sense in urban centers but will likely remain necessary in rural areas for a considerable time.  What the hell is a farmer or construction worker going to do with some little electrically powered autonomous pod?.  How is a fisherman supposed to get their boat to the launch? One thinks the people drawing this stuff up have led very sheltered urban lives.



#6 Ross Stonefeld

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Posted 21 March 2014 - 13:53

Well we could certainly see a split into autonomous cars and self-driven private trucks. Commercial trucks will probably go auto before long. Too much money to be saved.



#7 Tenmantaylor

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Posted 21 March 2014 - 16:28

A very interesting proposition and one the car manufacturers will be all over. The seismic shift in business model this could pose to them is huge and makes the shift away from IC pale in comparison as a potential disruptor. There are a lot of people out there who I'm sure would like to save money on car ownership as they don't use them that often. You only need to look at the success of Zipcar to see that.

 

It won't necessarily reduce congestion though. If people still act as inidividuals and book cars for their own journeys at rush hour it's a net stalemate. I suppose the automation could make car pooling automated but then imagine the annoyance of the first person to be picked up waiting for the 4th person to get their make up finished whilst outside their house....



#8 saudoso

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Posted 21 March 2014 - 19:43

Cars that drive themselves on predetermined routes and times: Buses and subways.
 
Cars that drive themselves and can be used on demand: Taxicabs.
 
Can't see it making a difference. Even within families.
 
Unless the ownership of cars is forbidden for good.

 

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#9 275 GTB-4

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Posted 21 March 2014 - 22:14

The private automobile will one way or another eventually become rare and then presumably extinct.  I don't think the auto industry can fight this over the long term, it will just happen. Private cars already make little sense in urban centers but will likely remain necessary in rural areas for a considerable time.  What the hell is a farmer or construction worker going to do with some little electrically powered autonomous pod?.  How is a fisherman supposed to get their boat to the launch? One thinks the people drawing this stuff up have led very sheltered urban lives.

 

:up:
 

One thinks the people drawing this stuff up have led very sheltered City High Rise, Wacko Hippie Commune  or University Campus lives :lol:



#10 Ross Stonefeld

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Posted 21 March 2014 - 22:43

Well populations are generally heading for urban areas, so over a 15-50 year period...



#11 Greg Locock

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Posted 21 March 2014 - 22:48

I know "French taxi drivers on strike because of X" is about the least remarkable headline ever, but here's one http://news.cnet.com...ont-in-the-war/


Edited by Greg Locock, 21 March 2014 - 22:49.


#12 CSquared

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Posted 21 March 2014 - 23:07

Cars that drive themselves on predetermined routes and times: Buses and subways.
 
Cars that drive themselves and can be used on demand: Taxicabs.
 
Can't see it making a difference. Even within families.
 
Unless the ownership of cars is forbidden for good.

 

The problem with taxis is they can be hard or impossible to get in some areas. With a smartphone-controlled autonomous car network, you could fix that problem.

 

It's true that such a network would have little to no improvement in rush hour traffic, but it would have a huge improvement in the parking situation. I don't know about where you guys live, but in the San Francisco Bay Area parking can be an unbelievable PITA.



#13 saudoso

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Posted 21 March 2014 - 23:43

There is a lot to be improved before autonomous cars in taxi services. The 5pm off duty cabs phenomenon in NYC is a good example.

 

And of course, the same as with emissions, the solution is an effective public transportation system and heavy taxing on cars and fuel. If not plain traffic restrictions and bans.

 

Autonomous cars, if individually owned, would just mean that you can go alone in your car, listening to music/news/talk show and texting or checking your email in peace without the risk of getting a ticket or causing an accident.

 

If a couple has to arrive and leave their offices at the same time, they could be carpooling right now. If they are not, that's because neither want to waste the time of either arriving early and leaving late or dropping the other and going to his/her own office, and later picking his/her better half up.

 



#14 Romulan

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Posted 22 March 2014 - 00:14

I know "French taxi drivers on strike because of X" is about the least remarkable headline ever, but here's one http://news.cnet.com...ont-in-the-war/

 

 

"The new car services, in France called VTC (voitures de tourisme avec chauffeur), let people reserve a car using a smartphone app that also handles payment. The cars themselves don't face the heavy regulations of taxis, and their drivers don't need to pay a price typically exceeding $270,000 for one of the limited number of taxi licenses available in Paris.

 

But the new UberPop could complicate the market even more by democratizing for-profit driving the same way that Airbnb has spread the hospitality industry. Taxi drivers -- and VTC drivers, too -- could suffer the same way hotels have with Airbnb, because the Internet and smartphones make it vastly easier for customers to find services across town or across the globe."

 

I've read many times where taxi drivers say that the disparity between their startup and maintenance fees -- and the cost to operate a VTC -- leaves them at distinct disadvantage.  And, while its easy for outsiders to cheer innovation, a majority of the taxi drivers made their financial commitment before having VTCs in the marketplace.

 

It seems that some things never change.  Entrepreneurs claim their behavior democratizes markets, while established businesses use a democracy's police police powers to inhibit competition.


Edited by Romulan, 22 March 2014 - 00:16.


#15 Greg Locock

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Posted 22 March 2014 - 00:47

Meanwhile Citreon is about to start leasing some of its cars on a model based on mobile phones, including a pay per use option.



#16 saudoso

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Posted 22 March 2014 - 02:29

Citroën.



#17 275 GTB-4

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Posted 22 March 2014 - 03:41

Citroën.


Is dis de namen of de App?

#18 saudoso

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Posted 22 March 2014 - 11:31

No, im just being obnoxious.



#19 indigoid

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Posted 23 March 2014 - 10:44

Meanwhile Citreon is about to start leasing some of its cars on a model based on mobile phones, including a pay per use option.

 

Approaching the same general idea from a slightly different angle - I used a GoGet van the other week to get some stuff home from Ikea. Frictionless service, it was. Book van online, wave smartcard at the windscreen to unlock it, load it, drive it, return it to the same spot, train home. Took me less than 3 hours, including time spent inside the store. $60 cheaper than Ikea's own delivery.

 

The thing I really like is how GoGet's terms of service heavily favour not being a jerk toward the next user of the vehicle.

 

Haven't owned a road-legal car in years and don't even ride my bikes very much anymore.


Edited by indigoid, 23 March 2014 - 10:53.


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#20 Canuck

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Posted 24 March 2014 - 14:03

Mercedes runs a Smart-car based service here that is highly visible, giving one the impression of it being a successful operation. No idea if it is in fact making money.

You don't need to reserve one, though you can. Wave your membership card through the windshield of any unreserved car and off you go. Availability status can be determined online that indicates where the cars are. There are no parking costs for the cars in city-owned parking operations including downtown and no defined drop-off point, simply anywhere within the prescribed zone. There is a prescribed volume of fuel included too if I'm not mistaken.

Very handy if you live in the core and require distance transportation or maybe need to pick up a light traveller from the airport. Not so much if Ikea or Home Depot is your destination.

#21 Canuck

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Posted 24 March 2014 - 14:27

If I think about the efficiency of not having my car parked in it's stall at work for 10 hours a day, while my wife and kids troll around at different times than I do, a self-driving car all but eliminates the need for two vehicles. I would imagine there is a significant energy cost however as the vehicles would necessarily be covering more ground than two individual vehicles.

On top of the time-efficiency, I would assume self-driving cars are also significantly faster, capable of higher average speeds at all times due to their self-spacing and pacing. By no means a panacea, but an interesting concept. If I were an automaker fighting off this sort of market-eroding concept, I'd beat the drum of non-productive energy consumption.

However, if you have ever tried to schedule an operation that is comprised of many dynamic events, you'll understand how seemingly impossible it is. There are entire areas of study devoted to scheduling and countless software packages for it. None of them that we've come across work well enough to allow it to schedule the transportation needs of 1.3M people in our little city, let alone a major metro area.

#22 munks

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Posted 24 March 2014 - 17:22

If I think about the efficiency of not having my car parked in it's stall at work for 10 hours a day, while my wife and kids troll around at different times than I do, a self-driving car all but eliminates the need for two vehicles. I would imagine there is a significant energy cost however as the vehicles would necessarily be covering more ground than two individual vehicles.

That cost can be partially offset against the need for building and maintaining parking spaces and/or garages. But then again, it means more cars on the road because empty ones are moving to where they are needed next.



#23 gruntguru

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Posted 24 March 2014 - 23:36

So the need for a scheduling/pooling system that connects empty cars with people going the same way, becomes even more beneficial in the era of autonomous vehicles.



#24 275 GTB-4

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Posted 24 March 2014 - 23:44

This seems to work just fine...from what I saw...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slugging

#25 gruntguru

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Posted 25 March 2014 - 04:31

So the autonomous vehicle is programmed to read the signs, pull up at the appropriate queue (having noted the presence of sluggers in the queue), inform the sluggers where it can drop off and how many seats it has available (synthesized voice?)

 

Sounds easy enough.



#26 Kelpiecross

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Posted 25 March 2014 - 10:04

[In the United States] ". . .the average private vehicle is in use less than 10 percent of the time."
 
I keep flip-flopping between emotions after reading the above.  I can't decide if I'm properly impressed or unimpressed.
 
. . . . .
 
"Based on their model, the authors, led by Kevin Spieser of MIT, calculated that at most times of the day, a relatively modest fleet of 200,000 vehicles would provide residents with cars within just a few minutes. The problems come at rush hour, when a fleet of 200,000 would send wait times skyrocketing above the hour mark. To keep wait times under 20 minutes during rush hour, they estimate Singapore would need a fleet of about 300,000. By comparison, in 2011 there were nearly 800,000 passenger vehicles in operation in the city."
 
So, roughly 200k in typical use and an additional 100k at peak demand.  Can anyone see how auto manufacturers are going to let go of 66% of their business without a fight?


T'Pol is actually a Vulcan - not a Romulan. I should point out however that it is highly unlikely that neither Vulcans or Romulans (or possibly any form of alien) actually exist. The parts of the Vulcan/Romulan/Alien are played by human actors wearing appropriate makeup. Nor do zombies/vampires etc. exist - human actors again.

As far as self-driving cars are concerned - in possibly ten to twenty years computers may have enough computing power to take in all the myriad variables involved in driving a car - then we may see self-driving cars. At the incredible rate computers are improving - it probably will happen some time in the future - but not now.

#27 CSquared

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Posted 25 March 2014 - 15:59

As far as self-driving cars are concerned - in possibly ten to twenty years computers may have enough computing power to take in all the myriad variables involved in driving a car - then we may see self-driving cars. At the incredible rate computers are improving - it probably will happen some time in the future - but not now.


Google, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Nissan, and others have had self-driving cars for several years now. It's planned that you'll be able to buy one by 2020.

#28 BRG

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Posted 25 March 2014 - 20:33

Google, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Nissan, and others have had self-driving cars for several years now. It's planned that you'll be able to buy one by 2020.

Well, that's the over-optimistic believe-everything-the industry-PR-people-say position.

 

The over-pessimistic wouldn't-believe-a-word-those-b******s-say position is that you will be lucky if self-driving cars are a reality before next century.



#29 CSquared

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Posted 26 March 2014 - 02:04

Well, that's the over-optimistic believe-everything-the industry-PR-people-say position.

 

The over-pessimistic wouldn't-believe-a-word-those-b******s-say position is that you will be lucky if self-driving cars are a reality before next century.

What would be the informed, rational position of an educated person who has been following the issue for years and reading many different sources about it? 



#30 gruntguru

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Posted 26 March 2014 - 02:53

Whatever the obstacles are, I will bet computing power isn't one of them.



#31 Greg Locock

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Posted 26 March 2014 - 04:01

My guess is that once some case law gets established in Nevada and wherever else they get legalised then there'll be a two year pause in response, and then it'll be on for everybody who can afford it who wants it. From this point on its just software and legalities



#32 Kelpiecross

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Posted 26 March 2014 - 13:04


I think a true self-driving car that could drive in all circumstances would need enormous computing power. Just think what you have to do in a short trip to the shops - watch out for kids' legs under a school bus - make a judgement whether a dog or a kid looks as if it may be inclined to suddenly run out on the road - watch the face of a driver of another car at an intersection to make sure he is looking at you etc. etc.

The main problem at first may be other cars that are not self-driving and are driven by unpredictable/mistake making/alcohol or drug taking humans. If every car on the road was self-driving it probably would be much simpler to arrange.

#33 BRG

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Posted 26 March 2014 - 20:51

What would be the informed, rational position of an educated person who has been following the issue for years and reading many different sources about it? 

 

Don't know.  Let's try to find an informed rational educated person and ask them!

 

My guess is that once some case law gets established in Nevada and wherever else they get legalised then there'll be a two year pause in response, and then it'll be on for everybody who can afford it who wants it. From this point on its just software and legalities

I am not sure that the UK Department for Transport would be even slightly impressed by anything done in Nevada.


Edited by BRG, 26 March 2014 - 20:51.


#34 275 GTB-4

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Posted 26 March 2014 - 21:18

I think a true self-driving car that could drive in all circumstances would need enormous computing power.


But not necessarily in the car (of course)....

#35 Greg Locock

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Posted 26 March 2014 - 23:41

Oh, I'm sure there will be some legislatures that reject autonomous cars. They will then be voted out of office at some point. i think a car enthusiasts forum is probably not a representative sample of the general populace who would much rather be sleeping/txting/watching TV or talking or even reading a book than commuting.



#36 Canuck

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Posted 27 March 2014 - 00:46

I don't know - I still consider myself a car enthusiast, but I despise my commute.  That's not driving, that's an exercise in trying to find a crawling speed that doesn't involve riding the clutch for 15 km.  At 41 I've made a relative amount of peace with it, in that I no longer expect it to be anything other than arduous and slow, thus my expectations are never let down.



#37 Romulan

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Posted 27 March 2014 - 04:01

In the United States, testing autonomous-vehicles on public roads is legal in four states: Nevada, Florida, California, and Michigan.

 

Wiki

 

"In August 2012, the team [Google] announced that they have completed over 300,000 autonomous-driving miles (500 000 km) accident-free, typically have about a dozen cars on the road at any given time, and are starting to test them with single drivers instead of in pairs."



#38 indigoid

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Posted 27 March 2014 - 09:50



I don't know - I still consider myself a car enthusiast, but I despise my commute.  That's not driving, that's an exercise in trying to find a crawling speed that doesn't involve riding the clutch for 15 km

 

This is what I really don't get. Why do so many people tolerate this rubbish?

 

If you're going to hate your commute, you might as well hate it efficiently with all the other people in a train/bus.

 

Yes, I know lots of places don't have good PT. But if more people actually used the PT, it'd be an obvious investment target. You'd think. Sigh.

 

edit: one for Greg in particular - why does Tullamarine still not have an airport train, after more than half a bloody century? I saw an article debunking the "because commercial contracts" angle last year, so I'm guessing it's not that


Edited by indigoid, 27 March 2014 - 09:56.


#39 Canuck

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Posted 27 March 2014 - 14:35

You mean sit on a crowded bus doing the same stop-and-go commute and extend the suffering to 2 hours and multiple transfers instead of toughing it out in my own car for 45 minutes? I don't know?

If we weren't still in the grips of the coldest winter in 20 years, I would likely have continued to ride my bike as I did the winter before.

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#40 munks

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Posted 27 March 2014 - 16:59

I am not sure that the UK Department for Transport would be even slightly impressed by anything done in Nevada.

 

 

So are you saying what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas?



#41 Greg Locock

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Posted 27 March 2014 - 22:22

Tullamarine train link - dunno ask the succession of stupidest state governments in the country. I suppose at least they aren't insane (NSW) or blatant beggars (SA, Tas).



#42 Kelpiecross

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Posted 28 March 2014 - 06:54

You mean sit on a crowded bus doing the same stop-and-go commute and extend the suffering to 2 hours and multiple transfers instead of toughing it out in my own car for 45 minutes? I don't know?

If we weren't still in the grips of the coldest winter in 20 years, I would likely have continued to ride my bike as I did the winter before.


I think you meant to write "warmest winter in 20 years" - haven't you heard of Global Warming in Canadia? Some of the TV images we see in Oz makes me wonder how anything gets done at all in the northern areas of the US and Canadia in winter - it must hurt the economy when there is feet of snow on the ground and it is minus 20 degrees. How do people get to work/school/shops etc. - or if you are a farmer, what happens to the animals in winter?

#43 indigoid

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Posted 28 March 2014 - 11:00

I think you meant to write "warmest winter in 20 years" - haven't you heard of Global Warming in Canadia? Some of the TV images we see in Oz makes me wonder how anything gets done at all in the northern areas of the US and Canadia in winter - it must hurt the economy when there is feet of snow on the ground and it is minus 20 degrees. How do people get to work/school/shops etc. - or if you are a farmer, what happens to the animals in winter?

 

Not sure how serious you were being but

 

* The snow undoubtedly keeps a bunch of people busy => paid => feeding the economy; this should compensate somewhat

 

* They're much more used to it than we Aussies. I just tried to imagine how your typical NT News (my #1 favourite newspaper!) reader would react to a northern winter. Can't imagine their driving would be up to the challenge, but I'd love to watch it on youtube  :lol:



#44 mariner

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Posted 28 March 2014 - 15:21

Be careful of anything you read on the net , even if done " by MIT"

 

The article quotes "To keep wait times under 20 minutes during rush hour, they estimate Singapore would need a fleet of about 300,000. By comparison, in 2011 there were nearly 800,000 passenger vehicles in operation in the city."

 

However according to the Singapore govt there were only 512K private cars in Singapore in 2011 - plus 26K taxi's

 

So the claimed 500K reduction would mean nil cars - OR the  real saving is only 222k cars.

 

Similarlay it says " the average Singaporean would save on the order of $15,000 annually, if you take into account not only the costs of car ownership, maintenance, and parking, but also the time people spend looking for parking, dealing with tickets, in line at the DMV, and other nuisances."

 

Singapore has 5.3M people,If you take the statement literally that means saving $81B per year. .Clearly  not everybody has a car etc but I dont find much sign of analytical rigour in the article.

 

govt source http://www.lta.gov.s..._Brief_2012.pdf


Edited by mariner, 28 March 2014 - 15:24.


#45 Greg Locock

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Posted 28 March 2014 - 23:57

When the politicians finally decide to share the earth's resources equally among us all(except them) we'll probably end up like the brilliant system in Vanuatu. Minibuses. Fixed (ish) fares. route by negotiation. This relies on having quite a lot of minibuses driving around at any one time, in a seemingly haphazard fashion. Add in a good message board system and you could make it more efficient. I'm not suggesting a centrally controlled dispatch system, that takes the incentive away from the drivers and passsengers.


Edited by Greg Locock, 29 March 2014 - 00:37.


#46 Kelpiecross

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Posted 29 March 2014 - 04:01

Not sure how serious you were being but
 
* The snow undoubtedly keeps a bunch of people busy => paid => feeding the economy; this should compensate somewhat
 
* They're much more used to it than we Aussies. I just tried to imagine how your typical NT News (my #1 favourite newspaper!) reader would react to a northern winter. Can't imagine their driving would be up to the challenge, but I'd love to watch it on youtube  :lol:


I was certainly serious about how countries in the far northern hemisphere continue to operate under a few feet of snow - I would like to see a few feet of snow though - I have only ever seen a few scraps of snow - in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.

#47 Canuck

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Posted 29 March 2014 - 05:33

You just keep on keeping on.  You have AC, we have heaters and insulation.  We use a pickling brine on the road that lowers the melting point of the snow so they stay clearer longer, but eventually you lose the battle and they become packed ice and snow.  We have snow tires (Fins arguably make the best), some with little carbide studs, that make an enormous difference and of course a fleet of plows, graders and trucks to haul the accumulation from the major roads.  You get used to it.  I grew up where -45'C without the windchill wasn't uncommon, but just 1 year in Dubai's +50'C has ruined my cold weathering tolerance.  I would (and do) gladly trade your over-sized venomous creepy-crawly-slithery things for a winter that kills that nasty shit off each fall. 



#48 RogerGraham

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Posted 29 March 2014 - 11:22

Some of the most venomous things are the smallest, like irukandji.  Eww.

 

I often wondered how snow plows work without jack-knifing on the road surface every 5 minutes.  Or do they scrape well above the actual road surface to avoid that possibility?



#49 indigoid

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Posted 29 March 2014 - 13:01



Some of the most venomous things are the smallest, like irukandji.  Eww.

 

Yes. Australia - it doesn't matter where you are, something will get you. If it's not dropbears, snakes, spiders that can reliably bite through leather shoes (!), gigantic bloody crocodiles, or feral Queenslanders, it's 1cm invisible jellyfish that each have enough venom to fairly reliably kill 25 (!) adults. Or blue-ringed octopus that don't show their beautiful blue identifying features until your death is very imminent. We need all these to stop the Indonesians invading, or something.

 

On a much happier note - this place is on my bucket list:

 



#50 Kelpiecross

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Posted 31 March 2014 - 10:32

Yes. Australia - it doesn't matter where you are, something will get you. If it's not dropbears, snakes, spiders that can reliably bite through leather shoes (!), gigantic bloody crocodiles, or feral Queenslanders, it's 1cm invisible jellyfish that each have enough venom to fairly reliably kill 25 (!) adults. Or blue-ringed octopus that don't show their beautiful blue identifying features until your death is very imminent. We need all these to stop the Indonesians invading, or something.


In defence of Oz's much-maligned (but lovable) wildlife - we do have the No.1 most poisonous spider (Funnel Web) and (believe it or not) the top ten deadliest snakes but nobody has died from a spider bite in Oz for more than thirty years and only one or two (or none) from snake bite most years. The sharks have been eating well lately though. Saltwater crocs are very dangerous - especially because their diet consists of only land animals (like people). But it is not hard to avoid marine-type creatures by avoiding places where they might be (although a croc will jump out of the water and run after you).
The US and Canadia have Polar bears and Grizzlies which don't sound too friendly. (I have heard these bears are even more dangerous than the deadly Dropbear).