Scale is everything. Some of the projects we work on now are huge. New cities and towns being built in the most unlikely places to cope with the overwhelming global housing demand. We’re frequently seeing projects playing host to over 10,000 inhabitants and we’re lucky enough to be able to start from scratch. Of course, not many cities enjoyed this luxury and technology has had to react to the environment rather than the environment being designed around the technology. Which is why I continue to find it difficult to accept mass new technology mass transit systems such as light rail, guided buses and trams. They can never be widespread across all cities. Don’t get me wrong, we need people to move freely through their environment. There are not many things as frustrating as traffic jams. However, my current feeling is that all this effort is going to waste and that the driverless car will smash everything else out of the park. We might as well stop thinking about building rail networks all together.
We know the driverless car is coming. Elon Musk says that we have the technology today and that this is a reality within two years. We know it will most likely be
electric making inner city pollution a thing of the past. Combine that with the increase in renewable power production and we have a truly sustainable mass transit system that has a huge advantage over every other method of transport. The advantage is flexibility. Door to door service in your own personal space. These machines could be automated to ensure smooth traffic flow, road capacity would rise exponentially as vehicles communicate with each other, traffic density increases and vehicle size decreases.
Clearly, there would be an awkward few decades whilst the population catches up with the technology, driven and driverless machines sharing the same space and the new automation systems learn their way around (probably with a few serious accidents along the way). Imagine though, your working day beginning when you step into your automated pod, not when you reach your place of work. Being delivered to a meeting without the stress of late trains or excessive traffic. Tired parents even being able to sleep in the cars.
So ask yourself, if you were the developer of a new city now, would you want a rail based mass transit system? Or maybe a guided bus? Maybe if you were building another Disneyland and wanted it for an attraction. For me, I would save the enormous capital expenditure and place a bet on automated cars becoming the predominant mode of transport within 20 years.
That is until virtual reality becomes good enough for us to stay in bed all day.