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Self-Driving Vehicles Pause Light Rail
AV light rail
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I got curious what the impact of autonomous vehicles might be on for or against rail transit solutions, and did some Googling. Since I have spent a copious amount of my discretionary adult life musing and blogging about rail, I damn well care if this is all suddenly for not.

The answer it seems boils down to an analysis published once by the Boston Consulting Group, which has been widely adopted as the base content to any other content so speculating on this question throughout the interwebs. Tampa Rail will not be an exception.

The analysis looks at the evolving autonomous vehicle (AV) revolution in its various stages from highway-only to complete door-to-door and considers the impact on rail transit at each.

To cut right through it, local rail systems are doomed except for high speed rail systems which the study authors believe will continue to have a resilient advantage over even the most evolved AV infrastructure. So, without much touching on this again, potential Florida high speed rail insofar as this one report is concerned is exempt from concern.

Otherwise the reasons for a glum outlook on the rest of it are largely economic (and the authors apparently believe that enough folks will behave economically rational enough for that mean something) in that the cost of an AV ride will plummet compared to the cost of rail travel. I'm not pretending to understand it all but that's the gist of it.

Here's the chart every website from the study, is posting. Again, this blog ain't some kinda exception.

Graph from the Boston Consulting Group depicting autonomous vehicle economic trends.

Still, I can't shake that despite the thoroughness of it, the analysis is still highly speculative. How much of the "total" AV vision will actually come to fruition, and how much of it is enthusiastic fantasy?

I like the line in this guy's rebuttal:

We are currently in that phase of any new techno-thrill where promoters make grandiose claims about the obsolescence of everything that preceded them. Remember how the internet was going to abolish the workplace?

...he isn't wrong.

My gut tells me that the sweet spot existence for AV will in fact be some kind of mix with fixed guideway mass transit, or that AV will actually only be fully adopted by mass transit (bus bots, autonomous trains, check out this Periscope to see one in action from China) for reasons probably related to a new set of cost efficiency considerations not yet conceived, and for reasons wound up tied to safety and energy. I suspect that it will be easier and more endearing to robot-tize trains than it will to robo-tize automobile class vehicles. To me the logic is simple; cheap autonomous vehicles mean more "cars" on the road, so in the end the problem of congestion is unchanged. Maybe it becomes worse .

Still, I can see why civic movements to build new light rail systems might be on pause, but taking the report to heart on high speed systems, and, in combination with the uncertainty that clouds the entire issue period, I believe there is no reason to roll up the rail movement in terms of blogging and advocating. At least not yet.

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Self-Driving Vehicles Pause Light Rail
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