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Comment Cars crash a lot (Score 1) 622

Two million Americans are injured and over 30,000 are killed each year... The crash rate without hospitalization is even higher. What do you think happens to their cars?

There are a number of reasons why the crash rate is so much higher in the US than other countries but two big ones are that American road engineering standards are decades behind the rest of the world and traffic regulation's enforcement is largely not yet automated.

Comment Of course it will (Score 1) 655

The Manhattan CBD, which has a much higher density of roads than any other place in America and in which millions work every day, has a carrying capacity of about 6,000 moving cars at any one time. If you lower the cost of keeping a car moving on the road even more then there will be more cars occupying that space.

There is a solution, we can charge a per minute fee for using the public road space. In the most dense areas $0.10/min on 10-25 mph streets, $0.15/min on 30-45mph roads, $0.20/min on 45-60mph roads, etc.

But we are all so used to being freeloaders that it is politically difficult to implement any kind of user fee for existing asphalt. Things will get much much worse before we put in place any sensible solution.

Comment There are good uses for low skill labor (Score 1) 302

There are so many things that aren't well automated. In other countries I've seen how they employ low skilled workers building sidewalk extensions and doing the manual labor needed to help a pipelaying machine or a paving machine. We have so much end of life infrastructure in the ground and so many poorly engineered streets that we could find work for all the teens and other difficult to employ for decades just in this one sector already run by the government.

Comment Hoboken (Score 1) 382

We'll never need to decide if Hoboken is worth saving. It will be saved as a side effect of saving Manhattan. Once we block inflows on the Arthur Kill, the Narrows and East River then all of Hudson County is safe.

Of course NYC may need to evacuate Staten Island and South Brooklyn somewhere, so Hoboken may change. Sorry. PS For the short stint when I lived in Hoboken it was a living shrine to Frank Sinatra, with a surprising number of residents who never left the "square mile" for any reason. I've been told this has already changed.

Comment Not with Verizon! (Score 3, Insightful) 123

For this model to work you need a benevolent entity running the fiber network. Verizon runs a highly profitable wireless internet network which in many cases competes against high speed fixed internet. It is in their interest to kill fiber to the curb not keep it going. This might work if you spun off the fiber business or handed it over to a traditional utility like ConEd or National Grid. But then those electric utilities would probably end up using internet service to subsidize keeping the old electric grid going as that business enters its death spiral.

Comment Learning useless skills (Score 1) 477

What a silly thing to say. I wouldn't know how to create a shoe if you paid me. It's a skill that takes years to master and it is relatively useless in the modern world. 99.9% of all driving is for getting to work or to chores. If you can do without adding another stressful and annoying task to the mix, by all means do!

The places you can explore by car are severely limited. There needs to be a road there. For exploring, learning to fly a plane, navigate a boat, and ride a bike are much more useful skills; and of course keep yourself in good enough shape that you make good use of hiking boots. If I could take back all those tens of thousands of hours spent driving a car and spend them on actual exploring I would do it in a nanosecond. I hardly knew my environs outside of walking distance when I was driving there, when I started riding a bicycle for distances under ten miles I was gob-smacked at all the cool things I'd missed when speeding by.

Comment Re:*sigh* (Score 1) 306

Native born isn't really the issue. It is pretty easy to argue he isn't native born if you just look at the original constitution. But the 14th amendment pretty much states that if you a citizen you have full rights whether naturalized or born, and of course anyone born in the country is a citizen. This means the whole native born stuff is meaningless now. By the time this amendment was passed the country no-longer worried that England might infiltrate the government and put an Englishman in charge and there was the very real problem of the Southern states abridging the rights of blacks.

If he is a citizen he can run for president, under the law of the land at the time all he had to do to naturalize was file a short form stating that his mother was a US citizen. My mother filed this form on my behalf when I was a child and I got a nice letter from Jimmy Carter. Same with McCain, he was probably born in a hospital outside the canal zone, but it doesn't matter due to the 14th amendment. He is unquestionably a citizen.

Comment Maryland must be some dangerous place! (Score 5, Informative) 784

Per the NYC Department of Education children 5 and above are expected to walk up to 0.5 miles to school. Children between 5 and 11 are expected to walk up to 1 mile, and children 12 and above up are expected to walk or bike up to 1.5 miles to school.

Being run over by a car is by far the most likely tragety to occur to a child walking home from school so I looked up ped/bike fatalities in Maryland, and it is 1.88 per 100,000. This is actually lower than NYC, which had 2.00 such deaths per 100,000.

Comment Federal Funding is not contingent on speed limits (Score 5, Interesting) 525

The national maximum speed limit was repealed under Bill Clinton so federal funding is not an issue.

Safety is an issue. Crashes on highways are no more frequent at higher speeds so long as they are designed for it, they are however more deadly. In Germany you have two additional things that make it possible to have high or no speed limit on intercity highways. First, the driver training is of much higher quality, you will never see anyone changing lanes without signalling on the autobahn. Second, there is generally a parallel slower road. If an 85 mph road is the only option then you will have people who are little tired or had a glass of wine with dinner on it. Not a recipe for success.

Comment Re:Flawed, 'cos... (Score 1) 454

#1 is a killer for most American cities. When you look at ones built in the last 50 years they are just not designed for getting around in any way but the car. Even when you look at cities built before the car they often have been destroyed by parking minimums in the zoning code that lead to huge parking craters and significant distances between points of interest. If you need a car for two peak travel time trips every day you might as well have your own.

When we fix it so that most people can commute to work without a car again then there are many models of ownership that might make sense. But self-driving cars are a red herring. They don't address the space inefficiency of cars both when moving and when parked. They won't work on streets anytime soon (as opposed to roads which are significantly easier to navigate). And they don't address the peak demand problem.

If you address #1, #2 would be easy enough to solve. Like many who don't use my car for getting to work I don't give a whit about #3 anymore plus you could do a lot of customization via profiles stored in your car rental account. #4 is what I mostly use my car for these days, it is a peak proplem, I use my car disproportionately on the same holidays everyone else does. But I don't leave the city on every holiday. I could see a zipcar type service keeping up with that kind of peak and not everyone is hauling stuff. Other countries have luxury busses for liesure travel, if car ownership weren't so high here I'm sure we would too.

Comment Just implement the carbon tax already! (Score 1) 554

We don't need more money in the highway trust fund. Driving has been decreasing nationwide for a long time now. Just pass a rule saying that trust fund capital dollars can only be used for shrinking roads, adding toll infrastructure, or converting them to some greater use such as transit. Allow some money to be used for maintenance, but not the current 90%, and make funding contingent on the state requesting it keeping 95% of the system in good repair.

But add a $5/gallon carbon tax along with an income tax exemption increase. The mode shift from that will greatly decrease the need for road repairs. In my municipality we spend a $1000 per car per year out of the general funds for street repair.

Comment It's pretty much all due to stupid risk taking (Score 1) 353

s/many more/infinitesimally less/

The number of crashes that happen with both parties following the law is practically none. Pretty much every crash is due to multiple factors, but a healthy majority of fatal crashes are caused by the big three: speeding, failing to yield and running red lights. The rest are caused by a variety of causes. Starting with what you might suspect, cell phone usage and drunk driving, and ending with random low probability stuff like heart attacks and vehicle defects.

If we just tamed the big three the US would save 15,000+ lives each year and prevent another 1,000,000 casualties.

Comment Funny Hat (Score 1) 301

Right now there should be strict limits on the number of autonomous vehicles per state, say 50 per state. Enough to do R&D, but not enough to be a serious nuisance. But when they are ready to drive down a Manhattan street then there should be no driver's license required and no insurance required of the vehicle owner. The company writing the software should be required to have a policy that pays a significant amount per injured party, say $10 million. So if a car plows into a large gathering of people the $250,000,000 payout will be covered.

The crash rate should be significantly smaller with autonomous cars, but it is important that we don't allow the self-driving car companies to shift responsibility onto the passengers in the vehicle. If you aren't actively driving the car you won't be ready to take the wheel when the software loses control and we want the incentive for making the software ever safer to remain with the writers of the software.

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PL/I -- "the fatal disease" -- belongs more to the problem set than to the solution set. -- Edsger W. Dijkstra, SIGPLAN Notices, Volume 17, Number 5