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Robotic possibilities...

By FlinkDelDinky in Culture
Sun Apr 30, 2000 at 05:58:35 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

I was reading bmetzler's thoughts on metered auto insurance and that got me thinking about automation.

At first I thought about robots in general and about how cool the new androids are turning out. Then I started thinking about the ramifications of a robotic car (that uses Linux no less). By FlinkDelDinky


There are some interesting possibilities with transportation in the future. We're getting close to turning a car into a transport robot. They say twenty years or more but I think it could be a lot less with all the AI work being done.

Now, you're thinking that you want to own one, at least I am. After all, you can drink and ride, you can fall asleep in your seat, you can watch pr0n as your car drives you to your girlfriends house to take her to some stupid social event, etc...

Those are great things. But I'm thinking by todays values. And that is a fundamental mistake. A robot car changes the macro reality of transportation. Essentially it makes all phases of transportation automatic. From the factory to the train, to the shipyard, to the plant, back to the train, from there to Home Club (a home improvement store where you can by anything for building houses). Via the Internet (or maybe in store) you buy something, their robot truck delivers, perhaps from their in store stock, or maybe even from farther back in the production cycle.

'All and good' you say, 'but I still want one.'

Really, are you sure? Let's look at the micro aspect of things. I'll use shopping for food as an example since we all have to eat. You shop via Internet and have your food delivered to you via robotic car.

'But I like to browse the aisles. After all I don't always know what I want. Sometimes I need a pleasant environment with lots of shiny packages to help me decide. So I will have to have a robotic car to go to the market,' you say - don't deny it, I heard you say it.

The markets, of course, have figure this out as well. That's why they've contracted with Taxi Unlimited to shlep you around. It won't cost you anything because they know if you come to the store you'll spend more. They may even give you good discounts to entice you to come to the store.

I'd like to point out that the taxi service would probably be separate from the delivery service. The delivery car probably services bunches of customers per run, where as the taxi may only hold one, two, four, etc., people.

You may think you want a robotic car now but in the future it may be a different story. Lets say a 'family' car would cost $10,000 a year, that's payments, insurance, gas, servicing, etc. Now, lets say you would use $2,000 worth of services from Taxi Unlimited. I'd like to point out that those services could include vehicles outside of the 'family' car designation, maybe 'light/heavy truck'. By going the Taxi Unlimited route you've increased your capital a bit, $8k can buy a nice vacation, jewelry, clothing, whatever.

Why is Taxi Unlimited so cheap?

Number one, their fleet will be standardized, pretty much all cars of a given class will be the same. People today use cars to express their individual personality. That means every couple of years the manufacturers have to spend hundred of millions to replace a perfectly good (technologically speaking) car with one that better expresses the personality and fickle tastes of the buyer. We actually identify ourselves with our cars and use them like clothing in a social sense.

Nobody will identify themselves with a Taxi Unlimited car anymore than they'd identify themselves with their washing machine. With robot cars transportation is not an expression of personality, it's a utility.

Because of this, the changes in cars will only be technological. Greater safety, efficiency, and passenger comfort is going to be the only cause of re-tooling and redesigning cars. This will make cars cheaper to produce. Million of units of great similarity over production runs that last for years.

It's not that you won't be able to afford a car, it's that you'll have better ways of expressing yourself with your money.

I think other possibilities and opportunities are out there to be realized when we get robot cars. We just can't see them because we think by todays culture. I think personal transportation is one of those sensitive things in human life that will have tremendous cultural impact. I suspect robot cars will have even greater impact than the regular car did. Transportation of ourselves and material is just to important to us as a species for an advance of this significance not to "change everything".

Well, that's one possible scenario.

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Robotic possibilities... | 15 comments (15 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
He brings up some very good points,... (none / 0) (#9)
by flamingcow on Sat Apr 29, 2000 at 02:39:57 PM EST

flamingcow voted -1 on this story.

He brings up some very good points, but I feel like I've just watched a sci-fi movie while high on something very good.

Very interesting. Perhaps it would... (none / 0) (#1)
by techt on Sat Apr 29, 2000 at 03:10:59 PM EST

techt voted 1 on this story.

Very interesting. Perhaps it would be more effecient to remove the intellegence from the car and instead place it in the roadway. It would be the roads themselves which are "smart", or perhaps a better term would be "aware". Thus, one wouldn't have to strive to make cars smarter with perpetually 20-years-away AI. Instead one could adapt current here-and-now technology as used in telephone switching networks and TCP/IP to the aware roadway.
--
Proud member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation!
Are You? http://www.eff.org/support/joineff.html

Man, I'd much rather have my roboti... (none / 0) (#10)
by drdink on Sat Apr 29, 2000 at 03:29:57 PM EST

drdink voted 1 on this story.

Man, I'd much rather have my robotic car use FreeBSD.

I personally hate driving. I don't... (none / 0) (#3)
by fluffy grue on Sat Apr 29, 2000 at 04:26:52 PM EST

fluffy grue voted 1 on this story.

I personally hate driving. I don't see my car as an extension of myself, but as a way of getting from point A to point B. Personally, I'd like to see good, pervasive mass transport where I live, but the city I live in is too small and populated by people who do think their cars are their be-all end-all pride and joy and so it wouldn't be feasible here. I mostly only use my car to go grocery shopping, and TaxiUnlimited sounds like a great deal to me.

Then again, I'm still waiting for the conveyor sidewalks in The Jetsons. :)
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

Interesting ideas, but I can't see ... (none / 0) (#2)
by starlitz on Sat Apr 29, 2000 at 04:34:52 PM EST

starlitz voted 1 on this story.

Interesting ideas, but I can't see people giving up control of cars too readily. Many people find the act of driving quite enjoyable at times, even if most of the time they're yelling at the moron who just cut in front of them.

Re: Interesting ideas, but I can't see ... (none / 0) (#11)
by FlinkDelDinky on Sun Apr 30, 2000 at 02:56:54 PM EST

Well, I think at first Robotic cars will be something rich people buy. Also they'll probably be passive and moniter driving and take over if something goes wrong.

But that's only how they'll be introduced. As the tech develops Taxi Unlimited becomes more economically viable. My hypothesis is that people's greed will take over. Also robot cars could have quick acceptance in business to business applications.

After that I think the Taxi idea wins out with only a few people intrested in driving (which would probably become ungodly expensive if everyone accepts the taxi paridigm).

[ Parent ]

Ahh, the old practical vs. American... (none / 0) (#6)
by warpeightbot on Sat Apr 29, 2000 at 04:44:54 PM EST

warpeightbot voted 1 on this story.

Ahh, the old practical vs. American gas-guzzling ego-symbol discussion. Bring on the flames. :)

Re: Ahh, the old practical vs. American... (none / 0) (#14)
by your_desired_username on Sun Apr 30, 2000 at 09:04:49 PM EST

Hey! We Americans have very big egos, and therefor need very expensive (and wasteful) symbols to satisfy them.

Compare the percentage of car-driving Americans to the percentage of bus-riding Americans, and you will get an idea of how popular this robotic taxi-anywhere will be in the US.

The inevitable exhaustion of the world's oil (expect gas prices to rise steadily for the next 20-50 years - then expect them to rise exponentially just before we run out) may end the American love affair with the automobile - or maybe not, depending on how quickly alternativly powered cars become availible.

Personal cars appear to be deeply entrenched in the American psyche; better ideas, however sensible, will replace them only with great difficulty.

[ Parent ]
This isn't a new idea, though I bet... (none / 0) (#4)
by Velian on Sat Apr 29, 2000 at 05:52:49 PM EST

Velian voted -1 on this story.

This isn't a new idea, though I bet using Linux on them is. ;)

Some interesting points in here ...... (none / 0) (#8)
by ejf on Sat Apr 29, 2000 at 11:22:07 PM EST

ejf voted 1 on this story.

Some interesting points in here ...
--- men are reasoning, not reasonable animals.

The hypothesis is way out there... ... (none / 0) (#7)
by PurpleBob on Sun Apr 30, 2000 at 12:53:38 AM EST

PurpleBob voted 1 on this story.

The hypothesis is way out there... but it's cool.

I still want a robotic car :)... (none / 0) (#5)
by inspire on Sun Apr 30, 2000 at 03:52:20 AM EST

inspire voted 1 on this story.

I still want a robotic car :)
--
What is the helix?

Re: Robotic possibilities... (3.00 / 1) (#12)
by doomsayer on Sun Apr 30, 2000 at 04:54:46 PM EST

What can be done now to implement Taxi Unlimited is to extend car sharing.
Right now some cities have car sharing networks with cars that have onboard GPS
and the drivers have electronic keys that can open any of the cars on the
network. This enables anyone to drive a car to many places, not have to worry
about parking and paying roughly a fifth of what they would pay by owning their
own car.

You could extend this system by having people input their routes when they get
into the car, if someone wants to go in a particular direction they could go to
where a networked car is parked or hitch a ride onboard a car that happens to
be going in their direction. That way you not only get the benifits of car
sharing; but, you will often have cars with several people in them if they're
going to a popular place like a university, which would reduce the usage price
to one tenth that of owning a car. Basically you would get a distributed mass
transit system that can drive people almost right to their destination. This
could be implemented today with GPS, wireless networking and a good dispatching
program.


Re: Robotic possibilities... (none / 0) (#13)
by FlinkDelDinky on Sun Apr 30, 2000 at 08:24:42 PM EST

I think this is a good idea. One I hadn't thought of. Are the cities that are implementing these systems in Europe? I say Europe because we in America probably wouldn't go for this.

The problem with it is that the U.S. isn't exactly a country of great discipline. As an American (and proud of it), I can honestly say that, like idoits, we can f*** anything up, especially if we're being idealistic.

Than again, I don't expect California to have a war with Nevada for 700 years. Of course there was that Civil War thing, but we actually had a good reason for that.

[ Parent ]

Re: Robotic possibilities... (none / 0) (#15)
by doomsayer on Sun Apr 30, 2000 at 09:41:26 PM EST

Car sharing is most popular in Europe, the advanced version which uses GPS is
in some city in England. There is a bit of car sharing in Portland, Oregon,
with 14 cars and 231 members. More projects are underway or being planned in
the US, a list of these is at:
http://www.carsharing.net/

Robotic cars would help these networks as one of the problems with car sharing
when there are few members is getting the cars back to popular places. Robotic
cars could drive slowly back to docking stations and ideally fill themselves
up. As more advanced robotic cars are made, Taxi Unlimited would gradually
become possible; but, even with the technology we have now, car sharing could
transport most of the people who use mass transit or personal vehicles.


[ Parent ]
Robotic possibilities... | 15 comments (15 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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