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Robocabs Coming to Europe 176

Posted by Zonk
from the automated-mass-transit dept.
Roland Piquepaille writes "Almost all of us can recall both good and poor memories of taxi rides when we arrived in a city we didn't know. This is why a short article from Spiegel Online, 'Bringing Robot Transportation to Europe,' caught my eye this morning. It briefly describes the European 'CityMobil' project which involves 28 partners in 10 countries at a cost of €40 million. This project plans to eliminate city drivers and three trial sites have already been selected. For example, in 2008, Terminal 5 in London's Heathrow airport will be connected to the car park by driverless electric cars along a 4-kilometer track. Read more for additional pictures and references about this project to make the roads in Europe's cities more efficient."
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Robocabs Coming to Europe

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  • Robo-what? (Score:3, Funny)

    by vistic (556838) on Friday September 08, 2006 @10:30PM (#16070258)
    Did anyone else read that as "Robocrabs" and imagine some nasty STD of the future?
  • by macaulay805 (823467) on Friday September 08, 2006 @10:33PM (#16070271) Homepage Journal
    In Soviet Russia, car drives you!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 08, 2006 @10:33PM (#16070272)
    "You're in a JohnnyCab!"
  • Ever seen "Total Recall"?


    "[...] driverless electric cars along a 4-kilometer track."
    How is this different than EWR's monorail or other systems? I fail to see how this is a true automated cab system.

    • by timeOday (582209)
      How is this different than EWR's monorail or other systems?
      I don't know about EWR, but this appears to be a point-to-point system, which navigates to where you select instead of having preset routes and switchovers. And it means you ride by yourself (or company of your choosing) instead of 60 anonymous people. Incidentally, eliminating the "mass" from "mass transit" also makes a much smaller target for terrorism.
    • I wonder if it will have an animatronic driver with minimal voice recognition just like the movie. ;-)

    • NOT groups of people. It's a crucial development in public transport, and it's better than a computer driven car.

      Transporting individuals means:

      You can go directly or nearly directly to your destination.
      You do not have to stop at intermediate stations to let people on and off.
      You do not have to get out and change to different lines.
      The transport pods wait for you, they don't run to a schedule so you don't have to wait at a station.

      Being a form of off road transport means that:

      It can be non stop.
      There are no
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Barryke (772876)
      Not exactly a cab, but also an interesting automated transport system:

      Phileas is the name of a new public transport system which is developed and built in Eindhoven (the Netherlands) by APTS. It is an electrically driven road vehicle with properties of a bus, tram or metro system. It allows several driving modes found in these vehicles:
      • Manual control with the use of gas pedal, brake and steering wheel as in a normal bus.
      • Semi-automatic control with computer controlled lateral tracking as in a tram or
    • Of course the Walt Disney World Monorail System [wikipedia.org] is not pilotless, but can be a thrill to ride on.
      Late at night, when the Park is closing down, visitors are shuttled back to their parking lots to go to their cars and go home.
      Aware that everyone wants to go home now, the Pilots really punch the throttle on the monorails to get that accomplished.

      Hang on to your hat! They'll show you what these babies can really do!

      Great fun for everyone.

    • by Bryansix (761547)
      This describes Personal Rapid Transit. The system at London Heathrow is will be called ULTRa [wikipedia.org]. The difference is that the terminals where you enter and exit the cars are off the main roadway. This way you can get to where you are going but nobody else needs to stop to let you off. Your car simply exits the roadway to a station or terminal and then once you depart it waits for a new passenger. If one does not come in a specified time or if another car is already waiting then it jumps back on the roadway in th
  • The future is here (Score:2, Interesting)

    by lazybratsche (947030)
    I think this marks the point where the future is right now. Or will be in three years. If it works. Hopefully. Either way, at least in principle, automated traffic like this could be faster, safer, and more effecient. And if this particular project doesn't work out as hoped, the next one will.
    • by Killshot (724273)
      No, the future will never be right now.
    • Most major urban areas have public transportation which covers 95 or so percent of the land area. This is just a more intimate version of good old public transportation.

      Show me a robo version that can take me from any point in the city to any address in a forth-ring suburb and I'll be impressed. A 4 Km track is no different than two subway stops in any city.

      • by legoburner (702695) on Saturday September 09, 2006 @05:51AM (#16070990) Homepage Journal
        I agree with you, and have been hoping that some day they start doing this in denser areas. Being able to use advanced routing methods to move people from A to B in place of the inefficient and unaware cars and buses of today would be very useful. There are a few problems I can think of that need to be sorted out to get this to work properly though:
        - Efficient routing around disasters, with breakdown detection to prevent a single system failure from breaking the entire network.
        - Some sort of weight detection system to ensure that people do not leave anything on the vehicles (bags, bombs, etc). Normally a driver would point these things out but automated systems lack that ability.
        - Some sort of 'digital nose' type device to detect the vehicles which have stink bombs, vomit, and whatever other lovely smells that can be accrued by frequent usage in a densely populated area, and allow the vehicles to be removed from service and cleaned instantly.
        - Decent integration with pedestrians. They need to be able to go as fast as possible so that fewer vehicles are needed, but must not clog up roads for traffic and pedestrians. Ideally some sort of sunken road could be used where appropriate perhaps, allowing large boulevards at ground level, and enabling their usage in pedestrianised areas.
        - Easy to use for disabled people.
        - Free or cheaper than driving a car or taking a bus.
        - Must run at all hours, not be limited like public transport is, as this encourages people to either stumble around cities drunk after clubs close, or sometimes risk driving home.

        That is all that I can think of right now, anyone got any others? A private public-transport would be very welcome.
        • by Ian Bicking (980)

          - Efficient routing around disasters, with breakdown detection to prevent a single system failure from breaking the entire network.

          I would expect this to be fairly easy. Many breakdowns could be avoided with on-board sensors which could detect problems, and automatically send the vehicle to a maintenance point after dropping off the passenger. In cases when tracks are offline (a broken-down vehicle, the track needs maintenance, etc) because there's redundancy in the rail system it should be easy to ro

  • I'd love to see tests of robocars on subway tracks. Start with just GPS on the usual cars, to integrate live positioning into the signaling/switching system. Then put GPS on some empty cars steered from the central signaling/switching control stations. Then let people request destinations from originating stations. First big chains of cars carrying people between their shared endpoints. Then little individual cars between points. At first filling the spaces between traditional trains on traditional lines.

    Ev
    • A spanner in the works of your plan...

      GPS tends to be a non-starter in subways or any covered area ;-)
      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        Yes, you're right. I used GPS without thinking about the coverage.

        NYC subways are outdoors quite a bit, outside Manhattan. Under cover they can use other location tech.

        The subways should use realtime location data anyway, so we can look at realtime maps and ETA estimates to plan our trips.
    • Oh I don't mean the technology needed to implement it. I mean getting the public to actually use it without getting confused by high tech like the door button.

      The dutch rail network has some lines wich split at a point so that the first half of the train goes in one direction and the last half in another. It is on a couple of lines, ALWAYS happens and is very clearly announded and printed on the signs. And each and every ride people get it wrong. Not every day, every single ride. Can you imagine the mess

      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        The point is that the passengers don't know anything about the routing, including how trains combine and split. A passenger at a station presses their destination on a system map, and gets a magstripe card with their car's ID# printed on it. The map sends the request for a car, which arrives with its sign showing its ID# and destination station. The passenger gets in, inserts their magstripe to confirm, the doors close. The car zips them to their destination, routing/combining automatically according to the
        • This kind of system could so much more efficiently use our rail capacity in our gridlocked city that we should pour $BILLIONS into bringing it online.

          I disagree. I agree that the system(or one based on the same principles) could as you say make more efficient use of the rail space and make a huge difference to traffic congestion. But... It should be privately financed, it's one of the few public transport systems which can be profitable.

          Almost all existing forms of public transport are heavily subsidised by

          • by Doc Ruby (173196)
            Nice in theory, but NYC tried that and it failed. The wasteful redundancy of NYC's 2, then 3 subway systems is still with us, preventing incompatible lines from connecting, forcing extra support systems. While still private, the systems didn't serve the city, but just the "lowest hanging fruit".

            There's room for only one rail system. It's a "natural monopoly", which is always best run by a government accountable to the people. Maybe we could try competing car systems, something like the taxi fleets on the ci
            • It isn't a monopoly, it doesn't even carry a particularly large percentage of journeys, around 10% usually. Sure if you take it out of context and look at it without comparison to the other forms of transport which exist it is a natural monopoly. In reality there are viable alternatives which mean it isn't a monopoly situation.

              Alternatives include buses, taxis, trams, private automobiles, bicycles, motorcycles, prt and feet. Subsidising rail simply reduces the investment the competition will make in their s
              • by Doc Ruby (173196)
                No, the rails are a natural monopoly. And it certainly does carry a large percentage of journeys. Are you actually familiar with NYC and our subways? We're talking millions of riders per day. And in Manhattan especially, other than feet (no subsidy or services, beyond sidewalks - another government "natural monopoly"), there's no better way. All those other vehicles are worse in every way, for everyone but the rider.

                Eventually these packet cars should convince us to automate roada taxis. The city should sti
                • by Colin Smith (2679)

                  No, the rails are a natural monopoly. And it certainly does carry a large percentage of journeys. Are you actually familiar with NYC and our subways? We're talking millions of riders per day. And in Manhattan especially, other than feet (no subsidy or services, beyond sidewalks - another government "natural monopoly"), there's no better way. All those other vehicles are worse in every way, for everyone but the rider.

                  I agreed with you on the rails being a natural monopoly if taken out of the wider context of

      • by Colin Smith (2679)
        You get on any pod and your ticket tells the pod where you want to go. Simple.

         
    • I'd love to see tests of robocars on subway tracks.
      You mean like line 14 [wikipedia.org] of the Paris metro?

      From the article:

      It was the first automated line of Paris Métro. Before being put into commercial service, it was known by its project name, Meteor, an acronym of Métro Est-Ouest Rapide.

      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        Yes, exactly like that, to start. NYC would also like "therefore it is often the only line to run normally during labor strikes", especially after the last strike that gained little while covering the MTA management's $1BILLION theft while raising fares again.
  • Along a track? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 08, 2006 @10:40PM (#16070296)
    You mean, like trains and subways?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by kfg (145172) *
      You mean, like trains and subways?

      With sufficient research ( and government grants) scienctists hope to invent something they call a "trolley," although I think the idea is perhaps too futuristic and we aren't ready for it.

      KFG
      • by Peyna (14792)
        So, are places like Dayton that still have electric (trackless) trolleys ahead or behind the times?
      • by MightyYar (622222)

        I know that some cities have automated trains and/or subways, but in NYC the subways still have drivers and (I'm giggling) conductors. Yes, people who stare out the side of the train and close the doors... gotta love unions. Door closing technology will someday improve to where it is safe enough to replace the manual switch, I guess. Then maybe they'll be able to get rid of elevator operators, too. :)

        The funny thing is, the trains operated by Port Authority at JFK and Newark airports are 100% automated. Th

    • by Colin Smith (2679)
      nope. trains and subways transport groups of people, not individuals. This means they have to run along a corridor and to a schedule. This system transports individuals, which means it can run on a grid network rather than just a corridor, which means the system can take you directly where you want to go rather than having to change lines.
  • Already done (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dayid (802168) * <slashdot@dayid.org> on Friday September 08, 2006 @10:48PM (#16070323) Homepage
    So you mean by 2008 we'll have reverted back to trollies and cable-cars? Perhaps people will even ride in electric vehicles that carry 30 or more people! Then everyone can get there for a tenth of the price! Oh wait, no that's a bus...

    1) Take age old idea.
    2) Do the same thing only with added benefit of key words.
    3) Sell it as a new idea
    4) Get fools to buy it.
    5) PROFIT!!

    Yeah, that's right, no "?????" step here.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by evil agent (918566)

      So you mean by 2008 we'll have reverted back to trollies and cable-cars? Perhaps people will even ride in electric vehicles that carry 30 or more people! Then everyone can get there for a tenth of the price! Oh wait, no that's a bus...

      For God's sake, you didn't have to even have to RTFA. All you had to do was read the summary:

      This project plans to eliminate city drivers

      I don't know where you live, but I haven't seen many trollies, cable-cars, buses, cabs, trains, or really any vehicles that are driver-

      • Re:Already done (Score:4, Interesting)

        by wwwillem (253720) on Saturday September 09, 2006 @12:18AM (#16070532) Homepage
        I don't know where you live, but I haven't seen many trollies, cable-cars, buses, cabs, trains, or really any vehicles that are driver-less.


        Don't know where you live :), but many US airports nowadays (Denver, Atlanta spring to mind) have a no-driver subway system to interconnect the terminals. Or the light-rail that interconnects SFO with the rental car garage. Those systems run pretty smooth. I personally trust a computer more to "stop for a red signal" than a driver, that maybe had a fight with his dear one the night before.


        For the rest this topic is IMHO pretty much crap, because a taxi brings you from anyware to anyware and even more from door to door. Don't think that these pilot projects are getting anyware close to that. What most airports need is a railway connection with the downtown they belong to. But because all around the world the taxi operators (not the drivers but the license holders) are one big mafia with good connections into local politics, that hardly happens anywhere.


        Yes, I know the many exceptions (Amsterdam, Tokio, Heathrow), but I know 10x more cities (Singapore, Toronto, La Guardia, Denver, Vancouver, Mexico City, etc.) where you can absolutely forget it to have decent public transport from the airport to city center. In many of those cities a subway/metro/lightrail system comes even close to the airport, but just doesn't bridge the gap of "the last mile".

        • by Hadlock (143607)
          you can add DFW airport and the Miami, FL financial district to that list. The latter has been running for close to a decade now. i once saw a trolly open and close it's doors 20 times in a row due to a bug in the software, but other than that it's pretty freaking great. dfw's trolly system was just installed a year or two ago... but i've never used/seen it, despite flying from dallas to miami twice a year. maybe i'm just in the wrong parts of the terminal(s).
        • I personally trust a computer more to "stop for a red signal" than a driver, that maybe had a fight with his dear one the night before.

          Well, you don't need driverless trains for that. Most modern railways, trams etc use automatic train control that will bring trains to a halt if there is a red signal (or another train on the same control section etc etc). Of course these systems have problems braking for people, cars, deers and other obstacles that don't have transponders which is why you still require driv
      • The Docklands Light Railway in London is driverless. It is a fairly complicated network too. http://www.tfl.gov.uk/dlr/pdf/network/zones.pdf [tfl.gov.uk]
    • by drsquare (530038)
      Then everyone can get there for a tenth of the price! Oh wait, no that's a bus...

      You haven't been on a bus lately...
    • Use your head rather than your mouth, just for a second and think about the implications.

      If you move a group of people.

      The vehicle has to be big. It has to be heavy.
      The underlying infrastructure to handle the vehicle has to be big, heavy and expensive.
      The vehicle has to run along an average route, it can't go direct to your destination. You almost certainly will have to change vehicles to get to your destination.
      The vehicle has to run to a schedule which means you have to wait for it.
      The vehicle has to stop
      • or it can be small and continious.

        people movers can hold 1-5 and go every thirty seconds, and change destinations on the fly.
    • Fine by me personaly. I can reliably get to places quicker by well done public transport in cities like San Francisco & LA. Good public transport is FAR better than the current system of everybody hop in thier car and scramble from generally the same location to a destination thats usualy in the same general area. I live in Las Vegas and I try to not leave the house from the hours 6am-9am and 4pm-7pm. Having to get around by car here is horrid and the transit system is abysmal for being a "tourist hot-s
  • by rufusdufus (450462) on Friday September 08, 2006 @10:53PM (#16070332)
    I found a more insightful article [telegraph.co.uk] that explains the advantage of this system over existing airport shuttle systems:
    The difference for passengers will be not so much the journey time - which will be about four minutes - but how long they have to wait. Instead of huddling under a shelter for as long as 20 minutes as they currently do waiting for a bus, the pod will be at most a minute away.
  • by Russ Nelson (33911) <slashdot@russnelson.com> on Friday September 08, 2006 @11:09PM (#16070380) Homepage
    The RUF [www.ruf.dk] is a better system than this. First, because it's dual-mode: you can drive (compatible) cars up onto the guideway. Second, because cars are privately owned (in addition to cars owned by the system operator and run as taxis within the system), the system operator will not have to come up with all the capital needed to run the line .... just the guideway and whatever number of taxis they want to run.
    • by Ian Bicking (980) <ianb@noSpaM.colorstudy.com> on Saturday September 09, 2006 @04:35PM (#16072517) Homepage
      From an engineering perspective RUF takes on all the engineering burdens of each form, and combines them. The rail system has to carry cars that are engineered for the road, and typically much larger. Or, even worse, rails engineered for buses which are much larger than anything PRT would carry. A RUF rail system has to take into account a larger variance in vehicles and maintenance; while you can require regular inspections, with private vehicles it's not possible to get anywhere near the quality control that you can get with a controlled system with strict and automated maintenance schedules.

      Cars, in turn, have to have all the same complexity they already have, and add the control systems for the tracks as well as seperate track wheels. Each car must still have a licensed and insured driver. Each car is going to have to park somewhere, which is not free [planning.org]. Capital costs of the RUF system are carried in part by private users, but only one of the smallest portions -- the largest portion of capital cost goes into creating the rail infrastructure.

      PRT's advantages have to do with its scope. The rail required for PRT vehicles is substantially easier to build, install, and maintain than typical rail, because the load is so much less. Elevated rails carrying tens of tons of weight must be large and bulky, and are very expensive to construct. But because the vehicles on a PRT are required in numbers relative to the number of riders, and wear out relative to how many passenger-miles they go, the cost is directly related to the fare income, so that cost is one of the smallest hurdles for the system compared to the rail infrastructure. PRT is optimized for decreasing the cost of that infrastructure.


  •   This is just a old transportation with a new spin. It's not an automated cab. it's just a smaller train.

    Cabs do curb side service from your current location to your destination. Besides, I am glad cab drivers are safe and able to keep their jobs.
    • by Fred_A (10934)
      Besides, I am glad cab drivers are safe and able to keep their jobs.
      You don't get it, the point of the whole "new economy" thing is that now the cabbies will finally be able to get that job as a robotics designer they always wanted to do.

      Or did I miss something ?
  • Hmm... (Score:2, Redundant)

    by evilviper (135110)
    Thank you for riding with Johnny Cabs.
  • It's Called PRT (Score:3, Informative)

    by dreadlord76 (562584) on Friday September 08, 2006 @11:18PM (#16070400)
    Personal Rapid Transit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_rapid_transi t [wikipedia.org]
  • by TomRC (231027) on Friday September 08, 2006 @11:24PM (#16070422)
    Robots aren't very good drivers yet.

    What we need are really cheap taxis that people can rent with a credit or debit card, drive a short distance, and pretty much just jump out and leave them. They need to be about as cheap as shopping carts - and even designed to fold up like shopping carts, so they can be racked conveniently in a compact space.

    You'd probably rent the right to keep one at home over-night. You'd drive it a mile or two on surburban streets to a bus or lightrail terminal, where you'd rack it and get your "taxicard" back. Ride the transit, get off within a mile or two of where you need to be. Grab another taxi-cart, insert your taxicard, drive to your final destination. Rack it up with dozens or hundreds of others in the taxicart stall, and get your taxicard back again.

    Reverse that, when going home. Each Taxicart stand would have extra taxicarts, and a computer system would note when a stand runs out completely, so that a couple of extras could quickly be delivered there. In the rare case that you arrive somewhere with an empty taxicart rack, you can punch a button to have one delivered, and get a credit for your inconvenience of having to wait.

    The taxicart would be all electric, with maybe a 15 mile range, probably about 25mph maximum speed. It would re-charge while racked up. It'd also have a small tank of water - in the summer that'd be frozen (while on the rack) to provide maybe half an hour's air conditioning. In the winter, it'd be heated, for about the same duration of heat.

    It'd be computer tracked with wireless and GPS - so the central computer could track units that get stalled. If you need to go somewhere without a rack, and leave the cart there, you could punch a button and pay to have it picked up - trucks would drive around just for that purpose - and again get your taxicard back. It'd have a plug too, so you could charge it up if necessary.
    • Think what life would be like if no one needed to actually own their own car, if all car needs were met by robotaxis. I mean with enough of them around that you could pick one up within a minute at most. You would call for one on your cell phone -- it would use your cell phone location to know where to pick you up -- you'd say or type in the address -- when you get there, it charges your cell phone or robotaxi account or whatever -- it goes away to serve somebody else.

      You could get by with one tenth the n
      • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Saturday September 09, 2006 @12:43AM (#16070580)
        You could get by with one tenth the number of cars on the road today.

        You'd have exactly the same number of cars on the road as you have now.
        Unless you increase the number of passengers per vehicle, or decrease the number of powered trips (bicycles/feet), it would be the same number of trips here and there. There might be fewer vehicles in total circulation, but the number in motion at any one time would be the same. There would, of course, be fewer sitting around in driveways and parking lots.

        You could reduce te number of cars sold every year by a factor of ten.

        Wear and tear. If you and 9 other people in your neighborhood all used one car, how long would it last at 200,000 miles per year?
        Who mediates when all 10 of you need to get to work at the same time, in different places?

        They could mostly be electric, thus quieter and centralizing the smog makers at power plants.

        This has zero to do with power source. Electric could happen with or without robocars.
        • by MightyYar (622222)

          Agreed except for:

          "This has zero to do with power source. Electric could happen with or without robocars."

          If the payoff for an electric car is 5 years for a private owner, and the public cars are used 10x more, then the payoff for the public cars would be more like 6 months... It might be a no-brainer to go electric with a 6-month payoff.

        • by Ian Bicking (980)

          You could get by with one tenth the number of cars on the road today. You'd have exactly the same number of cars on the road as you have now.

          You could actually have less cars on the road at any one time, though 1/10 is clearly an attempt to say 1/10 as many cars total, as most cars are just parked, not being used. Parked cars take up a lot of valuable space, not to mention an unused capital investment, so it is useful to reduce total numbers.

          It's likely that there would also be less cars on the roa

      • by drsquare (530038)

        You could get by with one tenth the number of cars on the road today.

        You need to do your sums. There would be just as many people going to exactly the same destinations as before, so there would be no reduction in traffic.

        Your system would mean there would be a massive shortage during rush hour (and no reduction of congestion), and a massive surplus during quiet times.

        In fact you would be ADDING to the traffic: as well as the usual journeys, you now have empty taxis going back and forth to pick people up.

        Yo

    • I've heard there's a system somewhat like this, in Holland, I think.

      It's called "bike stealing."
    • Basically your are describing 1998 technology, the Swiss CityCart [www.post.ch]. Which was in itself a progression of a Dutch experiment in 1972, the Witkar [wikipedia.org].

      Be warned: both projects were ended quite quickly. There are a lot of technological, social en political pitfalls on the way.

  • I have long thougt that owning cars is silly -- most cars are used for commuting. They drive for a few minutes, they sit, they drive for a few minutes, they sit. All those parking spaces -- streets in US residential areas are twice as wide as tey need to be so everybody can park their commute vehicles.

    I figured sooner or later it would come to robotic cars -- you ave an appointment for your commute, the robocar drives to your home, picks you up, drives you to your workplace, drives away. No need for park
    • Twice as wide?

      Try 3-4 times as wide.

      A robocab can be 1 passenger and if so they need only be about 3 feet wide. Since a robocab can be counted on to move in a predictable fashion I see no reason why three (3) of these little cars might occupy one of our current lanes. Then we have the issue that the Robocab's might not need to be parked. This still will leave room for another lanes with two, four and 6 ++ passenger models.

      There is just so much that can be done if we have a small efficient car that moves
  • by cdn-programmer (468978) <terr@terralo[ ].net ['gic' in gap]> on Saturday September 09, 2006 @02:09AM (#16070687)
    At the international airport in Kualua Lumpur they have a robot train to pick up passengers and take them to another terminal. Here in Canada I felt like I was in a cattle corral with customs cowboys standing behind two way mirrors with prods ready.

    This train of course runs on a set track but it does illustrate the idea.

    I think this is a good development. I share the optimism of many experts who suggest we are already at or near peak oil. Currently we produce about 85 million barrels per day and at this point Saudi Aramco has admitted Ghawar is in decline up to 8% and the country as a whole is declining 2%. They join Kuwait which announced last November that Bergan is in decline. The next largest fields are Canatarrel and DaQing and these are in about a 14% decline along with Bergan.

    These top four 4 feilds collectivly produce about 12-15% of the worlds conventional oils and they just illustrate the problem. Most countries and most oil fields are presently in decline.

    The Jack#2 well announced by Cheveron last week may hearld in a new field potentially with 3-15 billion barrels. If so then this feild may be able to produce 750,000 barrels per day by the 2010-2015 time frame.

    By 2015 if we subscribe to the idea that we're going to lose 5% production per year from the current 85 million barrels produced per day, then by 2015 we'll be short well over 15 million barrels of Oil per day (BOPD) of production compared to today. Tar Sands may add 2.2 million BOPD or even more. The Cheveron/Devon discovery may add almost another 1 million. But 85-85*(0.95^10) is a loss of 31 million BOPD and thus with this rough rough calculation I've already factored in everything we are likely going to be able to do and still some.

    The bottom line is we need to cut consumption in a big way and the sooner the better. A HUGE percentage of the liquid fuels consummed, especially in the USA, is totally wasted. SUV"s sit six (6) abreast in grid lock traffic with their stereos cranked up and their air conditioners blasting. If we were to factor in the waste of people's lives - spending hours commuting to a job that may amount to little more than beauracratic paper shuffling, this alone might be considered the crime of the century.

    But what we are doing to our planet and our future is even worse. All of that fuel wasted while commuting (often 1 person to a truck) is not available for useful purposes like industrial, chemical feedstocks, or by farmers to produce food.

    Robocabs, if they are fuel efficient and small and sized for the job are an obvious answer.

    Currently the USA burns over 20 million barrels of oil per day. If we get the SUV's off the road and replace them with a "Jonny cab" (from Total Recall - its a RoboCab) then we save lives because we get stupid drivers away from behind the wheel, we cut commuting time because the commute can be organised in a far more efficient manner than just plain old grid lock, and we might save enough fuel to save our precious butts in the process.

    The thing is this fuel crisis is likely to be fully recognised as the beginning of a fundamental change to the human condition by 2010. Its still a few months to a few years off. Oil prices in the $70 range are the harbinger of things to come. We're ok for a short while. Next year we might not be so lucky.

    • by Danga (307709)
      At the international airport in Kualua Lumpur they have a robot train to pick up passengers and take them to another terminal.

      Chicago O'Hare has something similar as well:

      http://www.airwise.com/airports/us/ORD/ORD_09.html [airwise.com]

      I have never used it to go between terminals but it is nice to use to get to/from the long term parking lots. I have been using it for years and never had a problem with it.
    • I, for one, welcome our Kiwi sewage to oil [nzherald.co.nz] overlords. :)
  • So are they gonna pipe in mid-eastern music, garlic smells, and strange bead thingies dangling from the mirrors to give it the real cabbie ambiance?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)


      So are they gonna pipe in mid-eastern music, garlic smells, and strange bead thingies dangling from the mirrors to give it the real cabbie ambiance?


      Probably not. If you listen to "Time" by ELO, they'll probably make the driver a red head, blonde or brunette depending on your taste and probably track your preference. She'll have a sweet voice and will not be inclined to argue. Next she will be just the right blend of demanding but nice. You can paraphrase this to mean "Stimulating".

      Alas, as the say in
  • I can't believe that the summary didn't include the above title. Personal rapid transit (PRT) [wikipedia.org] is what people have been calling it for years, and is slightly different from the "robocabs" (think total recall) that it has been described as. The PRT system seems like an excellent solution for urban mobility from reading the articles on wikipedia, but it looks like there might need to be some heavy investment first. It's a good idea to check the wikipedia article (and the links of it) at http://en.wikipedia.org [wikipedia.org]
  • I'm hoping this project is wonderfully succesful.

    If they can make a system of automatically piloted vehicles within the ancient, twisted roads of Europe, it would be almost effortless to convert a similar system to the (comparatively) modern roads of America. Given our vast stretches of highway, an automated system could make long distance road travel less expensive and almost as effortless as train or even plane travel.

    And your car probably wouldn't want to inspect your shoes before you get in either.
  • The fact that the car park is 4kms from the terminal building tells you all you need to know about Europe.
    • by Danga (307709)
      What airports have you been to? Most large airports I have been to in the US have the long term parking about that far away. As long as there is easy to use transportation to/from the parking lot then I don't see it as an issue.
    • I can assume you've never been to Europe then, let alone Heathrow airport?

      In fact, what airports have you been to where car-parking is all within 4km of the airport?

      Idiot.
    • "The fact that the car park is 4kms from the terminal building tells you all you need to know about Europe."

      No, I don't understand, tell me.
      - In Europe cars are not as important as in other places?
      - In Europe land is more heavily built up than elsewhere so they have to put car parks where they can?
      - In Europe they don't help car drivers much?
      - In Europe they put their emphasis on better public transport too and from airports so you don't really need a car? ... look forward to hearing from you...

  • Will it be as reliable as when they automated [sbu.ac.uk] the baggage handling in Denver Airport. How will the driverless cabs respond to unplanned events like breakdowns or an obstruction. I once asked the conductor on the driverless docklands light rail [tfl.gov.uk] what happens if there's an obstruction. He replied that well then we hit it.
    • by Colin Smith (2679)
      "I once asked the conductor on the driverless docklands light rail what happens if there's an obstruction. He replied that well then we hit it."

      And that differs from which type of train?

       
  • by rwa2 (4391) * on Saturday September 09, 2006 @10:19AM (#16071415) Homepage Journal
    These have typically gone by the name of PRT - "Personal Rapid Transit" systems. Google it for a lot more information on what these systems can ultimately achieve.

    Back in the 70s, the big systems companies (later to be consumed by Raytheon, Boeing, etc.) was working on these mass transit systems to improve on some of the deficiencies of existing busses, subways, light rail, cars, taxicabs, etc. Ultimately they got out of the business by the 80s... I suppose municipalities aren't very visionary about such things, and it's probably much easier to just pour money into building more roads and federally-funded highways and pass/hide the vehicle costs to people to buy and maintain cars and not bother worrying about traffic congestion or pollution.

    Anyway, there are a handful of PRT companies today (Ultra, Skytran, Taxi2000) still trying to push these systems out. Unfortunately, they seem responsible for lots of astroturf propaganda sites that all look and sound exactly the same. But ultimately, the decision to fund and build such broad advanced and integrated municipal systems are highly political. Yuck, politics.

    So the only systems that seem to have a chance of being deployed are targetted towards campuses and airports. The only PRT-like thing in existence is a little 3-station tram system built by Boeing for WVU http://faculty.washington.edu/~jbs/itrans/morg.htm [washington.edu]

    But looks like Ultra is finally succeeding in putting more modern systems in Dubai and Heathrow. It's kinda ironic that these campus transit systems are primarily designed to shuttle people to and from a car parking lot :P

    Oh well, one of these days we might have something that look and function a bit more like the PRT as shown in films like Minority Report. But it will take some visionary public officials to make it a priority, as well as some visionary systems engineering to define interface standards so the system can be smoothly maintained and upgraded over the decades. At least high fuel prices and increasing concern with environmentalism and sustainability may actually raise the public consciousness about this soon.
  • by floki (48060)
    Doesn't anybody think of the poor young people studying philosophy, psychology, journalism, dramatics and ancient numismatics? Where should they get a decent job now?

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