Carpool Automated Transit

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Beginning in 1999, the following idea for an automated carpool system released to the public domain. The basic idea was developed several years prior and refined when GPS was released for public use.

Earlier versions of the below idea were more concise, but included almost every point presented here. I initially placed this in the public domain. When no one expressed interest, it was brought to a couple of companies in an attempt to find someone, anyone to go into business to develop the app. This idea was originated by a woman, which might explain the lack of interest. The idea began around 1996 when she learned that GPS would be made available for cars. Initially, cell phone users dialed in their cross street and other information. And yes, the idea of using cars to deliver packages went hand-in-hand, but the security issues had to be overcome.

DISCLOSURES[edit]

December 1999, sent to:

  • Brad Sherman, office in Woodland Hills, Ca.
  • Tony Strickland, office in Camarillo, Ca.
  • Individual at the Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA) Transportation Committee, also involved with California’s Departmental Transportation Advisory Committee.
  • Individual at the State of California, Department of Transportation, District 7, Los Angeles, CA, District Division Chief, Planning and Public Transportation, which was then forwarded to the executive director of the Metropolitan Planning Agency (MPO) for Southern California (this entity is the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) responsible for developing the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) for Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Imperial counties; they’re responsible for the Rideshare Program in Southern California.
  • November 2002, sent to Auto Club Public Affairs, Santa Ana, Ca.
  • Uploaded to a web site/blog for approximately six months starting August 2005.
  • August 2007, presented to a small business in Southern California.
  • June 2008, presented to another small business in Southern California.
  • Made phone calls in June 2008 to individuals at numerous California transportation agencies. I explained that I was interested in developing software for a shared transportation system that could greatly reduce freeway traffic; I mentioned the name of the business that had expressed interest, and explained that the company first required that I solicit interest from the transportation department.

THE PROPOSAL[edit]

CarShare: An Automated Carpool System[edit]

  • How can SUVs and other high-occupancy vehicles become the greenest vehicles on the road by effectually getting up to 160 miles/gallon?
  • How can traffic gridlock be resolved and without adding to taxpayer woes?
  • How can truckers reduce their fuel costs?
  • How can the public reduce their commuting costs now (especially considering that high mileage vehicles are still years away)?

Carshare1.gif

Carpool System - What would you say if we could create a transportation system in a very short time where:

  • Where an SUV would swiftly/symbolically obtain 120 miles/gallon (by carrying six people vs. one),
  • that would not cost taxpayers,
  • That would symbolically price gas at $0.54/gallon.
  • that could address the up and coming elder population and need for flexible transportation?
  • That would drastically and swiftly reduce vehicular greenhouse emissions
  • Where SUVs would be more gas efficient and less polluting than small cars
  • Drastically reduce number of cars on the road.
  • Drastically reduce need for highway expansion.
  • How?
  • Keep statistics to maintain an ideal driver/passenger ratio; notify public of need for more drivers or passengers to maintain most efficient system.

Carshare2.gif

Carpooling would solve the problem of overcrowding on the freeways. But carpooling lacks one key feature: Convenience. Carpoolers have to be at their pickup point at a particular time. If the driver or carpooler decide to stay home one day, they need to notify someone. If the carpooler is running late, they may miss their ride.

Carpooling is a good idea, but it isn't the most efficient or flexible system.

There is a way — an automated system — that would make carpooling feasible and convenient. Compared to other ideas for reducing traffic (such as double-decking the freeways or adding lanes or more metro lines), the CarShare system:

  • would be very low cost,
  • would decrease pollution,
  • could be implemented relatively quickly,
  • would allow everyone (driver and rider) flexibility, safety, and convenience,
  • has the potential to dramatically reduce the number of automobiles on freeways across the nation reducing pressing needs for infrastructure investment and maintenance (especially during this recession).

How CarShare would work[edit]

Individuals would sign up to be drivers or passengers.

  • Drivers would invest in a GPS system which would work in unison with the CarShare software. At the start of a trip, drivers would enter their route and destination into the GPS (or a modified cell phone) (these components would be based on standard cell phone and GPS technology). The car's starting point would automatically be detected by GPS installed in the vehicle. The car's location, route, and destination would be transferred to a central computer database.
  • Passengers would dial their pickup point and desired destination using a modified cell phone. (The passenger would indicate how many blocks from their destination they would be willing to be dropped off.) (Pickup/drop-off points would be any safe, convenient location, such as parking garages, parking lots, etc.)
  • Computer software would track which car (with the same general destination) is closest to the pickup point, then would notify the driver of potential passengers.
  • The driver would indicate whether he/she would accept the pick-up.
  • The passenger would be notified of the car number, destination, and approximate arrival time of the pickup car. The passenger would either accept or reject the ride.
  • When the driver arrived at the pick-up point, driver and passenger would confirm the transaction by pushing a button on their modified cell phones (or GPS). This would complete the transaction.
  • For passengers taking more complex routes, they may need more than one ride to reach their destination. If so, the car's GPS would track location and arrange the passenger's next ride. The passenger would be alerted on their cell phone.

What is key about this system is that specific drivers and riders are not permanently linked with each other. Only drivers or passengers who happen to be going in a specific direction at a specific time would be linked. The linking is arbitrary and based solely on who is going where at what time. This is what makes the system different than today's carpools, where specific drivers and passengers link up on a pre-defined schedule. This system could also be used for intercity, statewide, and cross-country travel.

Safety concerns (of passengers and drivers) would need to be addressed[edit]

  • All drivers would have special licenses demonstrating driving competence and clean driving records. They would agree to follow traffic rules and speed limits.
  • Both drivers and riders would carry special photo IDs that would be sent to the driver/ passenger.
  • All drivers would have a vehicle number displayed in the windshield. The passenger would be sent the vehicle number and make/model.
  • Female drivers and passengers would have the option to indicate a preference for female drivers/passengers.
  • Drivers and passengers would be able to indicate that they no longer wish to ride with specific drivers/passengers.
  • A database would maintain records of who was in what car on what day/time.
  • All fees would be exchanged electronically once the transaction has been confirmed (at pick-up).
  • Riders could indicate preferences for vehicle size (could have scaled fee depending on number of passengers picked up due to greater commute time if picking up 1 vs. 7 passengers).
  • The system would be active during specific hours. Potential stranded riders could use mass transit system. (This system would not decrease taxi usage. In fact, without a car available, people would probably use taxis more often for side trips during the day.). For after-normal rush hour, may opt for scheduled rides to ensure ride home (in this case, the system would alert the driver's cell phone if the driver selected the scheduled ride option).

Other points[edit]

  • The cost of a ride would fluctuate with gas prices.
  • For toll roads, a percentage of the fee would be figured into the ride.
  • Drivers and passengers would invest in their own inexpensive equipment (modified cell phones, GPS devices).
  • To increase usage, there could be tax incentives. For vital industries (trucking), could reduce taxes or no taxes. The state could give companies a tax or other incentive if they provided employees with free or reduced-cost CarShare miles.

Risks[edit]

Risk that with new technological advancement in fuel efficient vehicles, the system would be phased out due to low activity.

Response:

  • High price of new, energy-efficient cars (green autos) will be prohibitive for many commuters, especially if CarShare users calculate how much they're already saving by sharing rides. Current advice is for potential vehicle buyers to weigh premium paid for new auto against fuel costs in current, lower mileage vehicle.
  • Energy efficient cars could also be used for carpooling. For green SUVs, the energy efficiency would be huge. Could help pay for higher price of the vehicle; potential that driver could even make a profit. Also, if CarShare is used for distance travel to work, would only need gas guzzler on weekends and locally weeknights, so may not see incentive for purchasing a new, high priced auto.
  • Once passengers derive other benefits from riding (time to read, etc.), may choose to continue for sake of convenience (for instance, in cities with good, fast mass transit, such as NY, passengers become accustomed to this mode of travel).

Risk that CarShare would reduce demand for fuel, causing gas prices to decrease, subsequently decreasing user activity.

Response:

  • If too many CarShare users stopped using the system and that did cause a significant decrease in gas prices, gas prices would subsequently increase.
  • Increasing demand from India and China would offset the decrease in demand in America. The result is that gas prices will remain relatively high.

Risk that not enough people will sign up.

Response:

  • Gas prices are increasing and may increase at a rate that is financially unsustainable for the average family. Considering other options (mass transit, scheduled carpool, new expensive green vehicle), CarShare is the most economical and time efficient compromise.
  • Risk that eventually small, cheap, green, Euro-style vehicles would decrease demand for CarShare.
  • As noted above, once passengers become accustomed to benefits of not driving, may not wish to go back to being drivers.
  • By the time America has cheap green vehicles, gas prices will be very high. So it would still be financially more beneficial to be a passenger or driver in the CarShare system.
  • Aging of population (and subsequent decrease in ability to drive) will increase demand for CarShare.

Potential uses of CarShare software technology[edit]

  • Tracking commercial fleet
  • Tracking livestock
  • Tracking pets
  • Tracking people
  • Tracking consumer goods
  • Tracking consumer supplies
  • Tracking military vehicles
  • Tracking military supplies
  • Tracking military personnel (military is currently seeking this technology).

There is also the potential that CarShare could spread into other countries because increasing fuel prices is a growing, world wide trend.

Current state of GPS receiver and tracking technology[edit]

  • Many companies sell GPS software that can be used with various GPS receivers.
  • Vehicle tracking is already established.
  • Purchase of GPS for vehicles has been growing.
  • Purchase of GPS for cell phones and pocket PCs has been growing.

And... gas prices are also growing.

This is an ideal time to bring all this technology together and save Americans a bundle while maintaining their commuting flexibility and freedom.

Summary[edit]

Make it convenient, inexpensive, and safe for people to carpool and it may change the way people commute.

If such a program existed, why wouldn't a driver stop to pick up passengers on the way to and from work, especially with safety concerns met? Why lose the added income that could potentially cover gas, insurance, and maybe even extra? This system would be particularly useful for the elderly who no longer drive (no loss of freedom), those without transportation, the infirm, and those whose licenses have been revoked.

On the passenger side, the incentive would be reduced cost (because passengers would pay only a percentage of what they would pay if they drove their own car alone), and reduced auto maintenance. And most important, for both passengers and drivers, there would be little inconvenience to their schedules.

Presently, there are numerous vehicles on the road that have room for four or more passengers. An SUV could carry 4-7 other passengers which would mean taking 4-7 other single-occupant cars off of the freeway. If we begin to view SUVs as little busses, then they no longer become energy-consuming vehicles, but energy savers.

Why not just improve the bus system? Because busses are scheduled (meaning inconvenient), they make too many stops, have limited routes, take too much time, and are costly (not only the vehicle cost, but the cost of employing drivers). Americans, in particular, demand convenient transit, and this automated carpool system would provide the convenience of a rapid, flexible commute over and above most current mass transit systems. The reduction in energy and highway costs alone would be dramatic.

Simple solutions often turn out to be the best solutions. And this is one pretty simple solution.