As I said in this recent post, I was intrigued when I saw the title, “Lies, Damned Lies, AVs, Shared Mobility, and Urban Transit Futures” by Graham Currie, who is Professor of Public Transport at Monash University and Director, Public Transport Research Group. Currie argues in the paper that the current thinking that public transport is increasingly irrelevant because of the rise of autonomous, shared mobility is just wrong and we talked about that extensively in this podcast. Following are a couple of highlights from our discussion. You can listen or download the podcast below or listen to it in ITunes.
“At the moment, world discussion about transport has been focusing on some very exciting new technologies, such as, autonomous vehicles, and also with great interest on the shared mobility area, you know, shared use of vehicles, and so forth. As a person who has worked with cities, and their transport systems, and with humans and their behavior in transport, I think there’s quite a big disconnect between what the current view is about these things, and reality. And I would even go as far as to say that the current way of thinking about these modes, you know, autonomous vehicles, shared mobility, are almost lies. And my purpose in the article was to say it like it is, because these are both wonderful opportunities, but if we think about them in the wrong way, they could be used for bad things, and I wanted to refocus the discussion around what’s really important about the future of cities, and how we’re going to get them to work. And I think there’s a danger that we’re going in the wrong direction with the current thinking.”
“So, there is a real truth about sharing. I would put it to you, that once we have autonomous vehicle, if it ever works, why would you ever share it? And I think that’s what will really happen. We’re in danger of actually ending up with more and more of these vehicles on streets. Now, if we can reduce the size of the vehicles to be single person vehicles, great, that would be the way forward, but that’s not our current discussion. Also, there’s another aspect of this, which I also considered to be a lie, and that’s that, there’s a group of people who are saying that public transport doesn’t have a future anymore because autonomous vehicles will take away the need for them. The irony of that is that autonomous vehicles currently in operation, providing real service on planet Earth, are all public transport vehicles. One quarter of all the railways in Asia don’t have any driver, and this has been increasing throughout planet Earth. The Vancouver Sky Train has no drivers. So in fact, public transport systems are well in advance of all technology development in practice in this field. So, there’s another lie, that we think that public transport is behind the curve on this technology, when in fact, it leads it.”