Transportation Revolution Ain’t Slowing Down

Don Perrone epitomizes the transportation revolution. Project manager at Crozet-based Perrone Robotics, he displays the innards of his self-driving car.
Don Perrone epitomizes the transportation revolution. Project manager at Crozet-based Perrone Robotics, he  displays the innards of his self-driving car. Photo credit: Daily Progress.

Just a reminder of how rapidly technology is transforming automobiles and transportation, I submit two stories published yesterday….

From the Daily Progress: Perrone Robotics, a Crozet-based software company, is testing automated and fully autonomous vehicles on Virginia roads. Although driverless cars in Virginia must be manned, the laws regulating autonomous driving are more accommodating here than in many other states. “It’s pretty much an open playing field,” said Greg Scharer, Perrone’s chief operating officer “Virginia has a ‘tabula rasa’ on [automated vehicle] legislation.”

California may be dominating the transportation revolution, but Virginia is a player. Virginia Tech runs one of the nation’s leading transportation research centers in Blacksburg. And in 2015 Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced the opening of the Virginia Automated Corridors, a 70-mile network of highways and arterial roads in Northern Virginia outfitted with high-definition mapping and data acquisition systems to support automated-vehicle testing. Those assets, with a friendly legal climate, makes Virginia an attractive location for research on autonomous vehicles.

Meanwhile, an MIT study hints at what carpooling options created by companies like Uber and Lyft, can accomplish. Smart phones and algorithms can accomplish amazing things. Says lead author Daniela Rus:

Instead of transporting people one at a time, drivers could transport two to four people at once, resulting in fewer trips, in less time, to make the same amount of money. A system like this could allow drivers to work shorter shifts, while also creating less traffic, cleaner air, and shorter, less stressful commutes.

The MIT team found that 95 percent of demand would be covered by some 2,000 10-person vehicles, compared to the nearly 14,000 taxis that currently operate in New York City. The algorithm works in real-time to reroute cars based on incoming requests and can dispatch idle cars to areas with high demand, says the MIT article.

Virginia doesn’t have any localities with the population density of New York. But cut the ride-sharing trips in half or two-thirds and you still have a remarkable reduction in the number of vehicles on the road. It makes no sense to spend multi-billions on new highways and transit projects when this potential lies within our grasp.

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10 responses to “Transportation Revolution Ain’t Slowing Down”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    we’re always talking about how the private sector delivers better solutions than the govt.

    I just want to point out how a lot of this got started:

    ” The DARPA Grand Challenge is a prize competition for American autonomous vehicles, funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the most prominent research organization of the United States Department of Defense. Congress has authorized DARPA to award cash prizes to further DARPA’s mission to sponsor revolutionary, high-payoff research that bridges the gap between fundamental discoveries and military use. The initial DARPA Grand Challenge was created to spur the development of technologies needed to create the first fully autonomous ground vehicles capable of completing a substantial off-road course within a limited time.” That was in 2004… think about that –

    Just imagine now days in the current political environment if the “watchdogs” found out the govt and DOD was actually spending money on something like this.. all hell would break loose and people would be accusing Obama of forcing his leftist/socialist “agenda” on DOD and wantonly wasting taxpayer money on govt boondoggles…

    driverless cars you say? well heckfire that’s worse than the govt trying to push solar or LED light bulbs or health insurance.. geeze!

    1. Yeah, yeah. Let’s rescind communication satellites and freeze-dried foods and GPS and the Internet; the private sector did not accomplish them first.

      Why can’t people simply concede that we need both government and the private sector, that they each have strengths and weaknesses and can complement each other, and that finding the right balance is the goal.

  2. Re Virginia compared to other States: we’ve just been through the exercise with Tesla’s manufacturer-owned sales and service location in Richmond. How do Tesla’s sales in Virginia rank nationally? Sure, California may be the leader, but are we up there in terms of electric car sales?

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    Forget Tesla – THIS is the future! :×490/landscape-1483912982-vw.jpg

    270 mile range! can carry canoes!

    1. Love those LED “eyebrow” lights. What powers it?

    1. I’m holding out for an arthritis-friendly electric canoe rack on top that lifts the boat from the ground and flips it into place.

    1. Weigh any less than an old Blue Hole?

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