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We Are on Cusp of 'Deepest, Most Consequential Disruption of Transportation in History'


We Are on Cusp of 'Deepest, Most Consequential Disruption of Transportation in History'

Andy Rowell

“We are on the cusp of the fastest, deepest, most consequential disruption of transportation in history.”

Within ten years, we may witness a radical technological shake up in the way we drive as people switch from petrol and diesel engines to self-drive electric vehicles.

The cars will be owned by fleets, not individual owners. The days of individual car ownership are coming to an end, as people switch to self-drive electric vehicles which are ten times cheaper to run. They will also be significantly cleaner.


I would love to see this happen but I cannot imagine Big Oil allowing it.

Also, as long as gasoline is widely available, it would take at least a generation for all the existing gasoline vehicles to become unusable.

Poor people & rural people will hold onto such vehicles for years, unless gasoline is suddenly outlawed.


I am sorry to see Oil Change International buying into the hype of self-driving cars. There are many good reasons to doubt its widespread implementation has more benefits than disadvantages. In an emergency, wouldn't you want a car on hand, ready to go, or would you rather wait for one even though it may arrive too late? Do you want to promote rooftop solar power? If so, then you have a means to store its electricity in an EV battery pack. This combination offers the means to more closely monitor and reduce household energy consumption, and a choice to use electricity for household uses or for driving. How energy efficient is a self-driving car with no passengers inside on its way to a pick up? There have been several accidents and one death in Florida involving self-driving cars that supposedly eliminate accidents. If those drivers who normally assess road conditions at all times had control, could these accidents have been prevented? Probably. Eliminating driver control eliminates a safety device. The real reason self-driving cars are being hyped is to create and profitably exploit a monopoly of dependent motorists, not much different than car-dependency as it exists today. Question: do residents of Silicon Valley become know-it-all smart asses when they move there, or do they have to be a smart ass already to be accepted among their own kind? Sorry, but this self-driving car hype is a fraud and a ruse promoted by ruthless corporate interests.


The shift OFF FOSSIL FUELS must come whether or not self-driving cars are part of the equation.


Which of the 3 basic EV drivetrains (BEVs, PHEVs, fuel cell EVs) reduce fuel/energy consumption the most? Answer: PHEVs or Plug-in Hybrids because they offer more incentives to drive less; driving itself being a large part of the problem transportation imposes on urban settings and on the economics of long-distant transport inherent in globalization. The less we drive, the more we influence the development of local economies which are conducted with least travel, transport and energy consumption. PHEVs gain their 100+mpg mileage by driving less on less expensive electricity. Longer drives incur the higher costs of fuel energy, including bio-fuels.


What is going to happen to surface public transportation in this brave new world? No; automated single-occupant electric taxis cannot replace congestion-relieving mass transit which can be at least as fast at a fraction of the cost and environmental impact of an enormous fleet of self-driving Ubers.

And what will happen to walking, bicycling and even motorcycling if they get in the way of the development of this tech-billionaire driven juggernaut? So much for walking or biking anywhere. We've seen this before, in the 1950s with dismantling of streetcars and interurban rail and even sidewalks in all the new suburbs because such things hurt General Motors' sales.

And the idea of this transportation becoming "free" through commercial advertising revenue - I assume he means data-and-privacy mining - which in this case will be the mandatory spying on every place you travel? Well, how is our advertising-driven corporate-propaganda media working out under this model? How is our Google-model, soon to be money-talks, bullshit walks commercial privatized internet working out?

Thankfully, a lot of this self-driving car stuff is still largely self-feeding hype - similar to the flying cars and of the 1960s. There are still major technical challenges.


Although I would love to see Rowell's forecast come true in the upcoming decade, just as the Kochs, Waltons, petrochemical, automotive and aviation industries and the politicians they own are thwarting rooftop solar and other progressive energy evolutiuon, they will make sure that Rowell's forecast remains academic with low carbon transportation being limited to the fringe, mostly to those who can afford their personal vehicle fleets that happen to include an electric vehicle.

Just as Saint Ron's 1981 removal of the PV array from the White House roof spurred Japan, Germany and other nations to leave the US in the dust in developing low carbon energy, the scientific brain drain Trump and his Murkin Taliban Party's war against science have unleashed WILL make Rowell's forecast likely in some other nations outside the North American continent,


Good thinking and comment. Except Sillycon Valley is not not filled with know it all smart asses. Just asses.

Smart the public is not either. Watch the $1,000 phones fly off the shelf for people who camped out all night to get one.


Andy Rowell you just keep smoken that weed and leave the planning to someone else.

Go right ahead to do away with gas, diesel, and propane. Then if you do not live in the city and are hooked up to utilities then you die. No heat in your house. I have trees I can burn for heat. What you got for an EV that will carry 1,200 lbs from wood pile to house. Then do that another 19 times. Sure that will work. Not.

I will believe you Andy when I can plow my driveway with your EV. Err maybe it will do it for me and I can sit by the fire and enjoy that weed while it does the plowing by GPS.


This country has to replace all coal-generated electricity with renewals -- like yesterday. That sounds like pretty daunting task! Yet this guy wants to add 200 million electric vehicles to the load while we're doing it. WTF.


And furthermore, this young millenial Mr. Rowell really needs to get out and around if he thinks that urban "transportation as a service" is something revolutionary and unprecedented. Dime-a-ride reliable public transportation in even small cities was the only way most non-rural people go around their communities until the 1950s. And many urbanites in places like New York and Toronto - and most of Europe, China and Japan, still rely entirely on public transit for day to day local travel.


It's tough for me to see Americans giving up their cars.


Your ICE-dependent, high-carbon footprint lifestyle (just the fuel burned on those those 20 trips would go a long way to heating a whole townhouse or apartment for the winter) is not a solution either.


Depends on where you live. Up until '06 or so when the the deep public transit service cuts started, I would meet a lot of people - even middle class people, didn't own cars in my rust-belt city. Half the people on my urban townhouse block didn't have cars - which was fortunate, because there was only room for a car for every other house...



Living in these areas really gave me hope for a while...

But that was then. Now, all the supposedly "green" and "progressive" gentrifying tech-industry millennials moving into these Pittsburgh neighborhoods from the west coast and New York (and driving home prices through the roof) sure seem to be car addicted. They even insist on parking with 2/3 of the car up on the sidewalks and the police seem to be on orders to look the other way. Oh sure, you will see them riding their $3K bicycles on the nicer weekends - but that's about it. They wail about wanting a return of the "trolleys" (yuppies love steel wheels and rails for some reason), which is never going to happen, but refuse to set foot on a bus. Only "those people" ride the bus.

Our only hope is that maybe the battery-electric buses that will be getting introduced in a few years will be pronounced "cool" (or whatever word they use nowadays) by the vanity-enslaved and pseudo-green millenials.


I rather doubt that such a transition can, or will, take place very quickly. Perhaps I'm wrong but electric cars still depend upon an energy source that more often than not is fossil fuel. There are the nuclear reactors and many people might have solar or a car company could have solar or some other form of renewable. Having people depend on a service rather than ownership would be very unpopular with many. Before electric cars become cost efficient, major, fundamental changes need to be made with their energy source. Enabling the masses to grow ever more massive is insanity. Massive changes in our energy use are needed immediately. I hate to be a pessimist, I really do. We only have a few years or so to change everything drastically or the warming is going to overtake us. I do not see those changes happening. We have the worst possible "leaders" at the worst possible time, propaganda, a [willingly] ignorant public, and our human race being unwilling or incapable of evolving. Unless CO2 and methane are not really a greenhouse gas, as many believe (many morons), we are simply doomed. It could be slow, miserable, painful, and horrible or it can be fast and...... Arctic methane could put us out of our misery in a relatively fast scenario. Increasing levels of pollutants, climatic consequences, wars, and oppression can draw it out over many years. A world changing event that will allow the survival of civilization while having those masses overthrow the psychopaths at the top and move on to change everything for the best [in time] is possible but unlikely.


Depends on the region. the electric generation in Ontario, Canada is almost completely CO2 free due to hydro power and nuclear. Quebec, Western Canada and NW US states are pretty much 100% hydro power. Wind generation is becoming quite substantial in the US Midwest and plains. Cars are indispensable in rural areas and trips to remote places, but for almost all day to day transportation of 90 percent of the population, could be replaced with public transit - which can be 100% electric (battery electric buses - capable of running a typical route for an entire shift on a charge - are on the market ans in use and have a small fraction of the electric consumption of an equivalent number of cars.


This would be more convincing were there some reason to imagine that the electricity to do it were to become easily available.


These sorts of pieces do the credulous a monstrous disservice, although probably often all unintentionally. There will surely be various dodges to prolong the era of whimsical and dilettante travel, but whether quickly or slowly, the palpable cost of travel will have to come back closer to line with the energy cost to accomplish it.

Part of the answer is electric communication, which accomplishes more for less. Part may be public transport, which is far more efficient in people per energy and a lot of other measures. But at some point, perhaps fairly quickly, we will be choosing between the grain for alcohol or the oilcrop for an internal combustion engine and the resources for food. And then the word "horsepower" will regain something of its original sense, however much horses are or are not part of such a system.

We must begin to accommodate a vast reduction in our reliance on transport. on most energy consumption, and on hydrocarbons in particular. This will take an extensive restructuring of society in general and its systems of production and distribution in particular. The difficulties of personal travel are apt to be minor in comparison with the business of getting food, sometimes water, and in many places heat for housing.

How stark all this becomes likely depends on how quickly it unfolds and how early people recognize a solution. At the moment, though, business and government show almost no interest in resolving or helping anything at all, and every interest in skimming power and profit off of emergency.

If history repeats or rhymes, the poor and the majority will suffer intensely and likely long before the wealthy and powerful are sufficiently hurt or threatened to do anything constructive. And the odds that the "cure" is worse than the disease are high.

However, there really are things that can be done, or at least could be done, were someone to decide that they were worth doing. In few cases is there any special need for food or water to come from many miles away. The example of the people of Cuba, who converted much of Havana and the island to gardens upon the fall of the Soviet Union and the tightening of the American siege.

But there is no guarantee that the owners of the US will grant people such access as quickly, and many areas in the US have considerable problems with cold and drought that have little to do with Cuba. There is a lot of warning and some pre-existing examples, but so far still only a small percentage of people who appear to take an interest in how to respond after the wrong decisions have (almost inevitably) been made by the ruling classes.

What can and has to be done is not so very complicated except for this matter of orienting people And after that, it does take some time before things are producing. It might be better to work on solutions first, and stage the catastrophe later.


Switching to robot taxis would be a great improvement, provided we can use them anonymously. If not -- if they treat the users the way Uber does -- they will be a disaster for human rights.

Uber makes customers run non-libre software which is known to spy on them. The company's servers therefore record everywhere each customer goes. There is no way to pay cash, so payment identifies the users also. See stallman.org/uber.html for many reasons to reject Uber.

Driverless cars could be even nastier: the software could have a back door for the state to give commands such as, "Take that passenger to secret police headquarters and keep the doors locked." Wouldn't the US government love to be able to arrest protesters this way?

These malfeatures, which the system will surely have if we don't organize to stop it, will threaten freedom for the passengers, and democracy for everyone (see https://gnu.org/philosophy/surveillance-vs-democracy.html).

How can we prevent this? The first step is clear: any time you see a discussion about driverless cars, demand about surveillance and anonymity. And if a ride service doesn't allow anonymity, refuse to use it!


To say that this is because of "market forces" as the article does, is misleading and strengthens the conservative frame of competition in a harsh world. What's causing this is people's moral and compassionate response to ecological factors--decreasing EROEI of oil accompanied by increasing ecological costs, including climate catastrophe. The pioneers of EVs--both creators and buyers--were interested because of the harmful effects of fossil fuels and their desire to do what they could personally to help.


Here in China electric bikes and motorcycles have been around for decades and represent at least half of the bikes and motorbikes on the road at my guess. Electric cars are everywhere, mostly tiny, very slow flimsy, boxy little things driven by poorer workers and the elderly. Every person's plan is still to have a house and a gasoline-driven car.The car is for status.Trains have been electric for decades. Natural gas is used for a lot of cars because it is very cheap.

I've seen a lot of sun in the last few weeks, for a change. I've heard it might be due to those closing coal plants. I hope its a permanent change.