Google is creating a vehicle that drives itself. This isn’t really news, right? They’re testing it all over the place, and it’s on the roads in California, at least on highways and freeways (it’s my understanding Google employees are required to be hands-on on side streets and residential areas) and few would argue that the era of computer-driven vehicles is coming soon.
I was discussing this and other Internet of Everything subjects with a friend and we covered some interesting theories around what technology or society might look like in the next several years. Napkin math ensued and the results made my jaw drop.
Now…this is napkin math, literally. The numbers are from legitimate sources, but the extrapolation is pure speculation. Bear with me though, and let’s see where this goes.
There are approximately 247.9 million cars and light trucks in the US, based on a 2013 Experian Automotive market analysis. According to the US Department of Transportation (DoT), US drivers travel approximately 3 trillion miles annually. Also from the US DoT, vehicles travel at an average speed of 32 miles per hour.
I’d scan in a copy of the actual napkin but you wouldn’t be able to read it. (The one in this article is a recreation)
Here are our Napkin Math results: there are 10.7 million cars and/or light trucks traveling US roads at any given point in time. That’s about 4.3% efficiency. Roughly 96% of American vehicles are sitting idle and unused at any given time.
Flash back to 1998, my father was the Y2K Project Manager for a large utility company where I grew up. If you don’t know what Y2K was, please go quietly Google it and don’t make me feel any older than I already am by leaving comments asking what it is. Over the course of his involvement in readying his company for the unavoidable doomsday that would befall them on January 1st 2000, he learned and shared a number of interesting facts that came to light in organizations troubleshooting their potential Y2K issues.
One of these was focused on commercial airlines. Airplanes became a big concern as the Y2K doomsday criers all said they would suddenly fall from the sky at midnight because they had been programmed with 2-digit dates instead of 4. To fix them they needed to be on the ground, obviously but (and here is the interesting fact that my Dad shared with me) apparently something like 60% of the world’s aircraft were in the air at any given time and there wasn’t enough runway space to park them all.
There are many ways to look at that information and dissect it. My take is that commercial airlines are extremely efficient in how they schedule their aircraft. A plane sitting in a hangar is not generating any revenue, so maximize the time spent in the air, and minimize downtime. This makes perfect sense. Compare this to the 4.3% efficiency we have with cars in the US and you’ll start to see where I’m going with this.
Looking at some more current numbers, the FAA’s 2011 fleet report outlines there were 7185 commercial airliners in the United States. Data from a few different sources (Flightaware, FAA) suggests that on average, there are about 3500 of these in the air at any given time. That’s an estimated efficiency of 48.7%. Not perfect, but comparing that to vehicle efficiency, it’s excellent.
What if we could apply that same level of efficiency to our own vehicles?
Now, back to the conversation I was having with a friend around interconnected devices and the future. Imagine your car is now fully automated, and driver-less. You use it for your usual morning commute, but instead of sitting idle in a parking lot somewhere, it takes on other tasks throughout the day until you need it again to drive you home. There are any number of possibilities here, from ad-hoc taxi service, to deliveries, to driving other people to their respective places of work. Let’s assume that all of these vehicles are somehow interconnected and are managed by a centralized scheduling application, which is in turn connected to the smartphone in everyone’s pocket. Getting a ride somewhere becomes rather simple, doesn’t it? Pull out your phone, schedule it, done. Impromptu decision to go for dinner? Grab your phone, and the nearest available smart car arrives in minutes to pick you up. Efficiency skyrockets not only because the time on the road is maximized, but with the driver-less vehicle, speed is also increased, so the gains are two-fold.
If cars at this point essentially become communal, why would anyone even own their own car? Could they become a part of the core infrastructure of a city?
Okay, back to napkin math. Let’s see what would happen if we were able to achieve present-day airline efficiency with the future of interconnected devices and driver-less cars.
10.7 million vehicles (active and on the road) at 4.3% efficiency = approximately 248 million cars.
10.7 million vehicles (active and on the road) at 48.7% efficiency = approximately 22 million cars.
Just by increasing vehicle usage efficiency from 4.3% to 48.7% -- we could (potentially) eliminate 226 million vehicles!
So many questions come to mind. What about the impact to the economy, auto manufacturers and jobs? Will people be willing to give up their ownership of a personal vehicle? Will we actually ever see mass adoption of a driver-less vehicle on our streets and roadways?
As more and more devices become interconnected, it’s difficult to know what the future will look like but the potential at least seems promising.
How do you see the Internet of Everything impacting your daily commute?
In my previousblogI have attempted to describe some of the distributed computing and data processing challenges that have to be solved in order to release the full potential and value from the Internet of Things, and how Cisco is addressing these challenges by enabling a Fog computing model via Cisco IOx. Let’s now review some real world scenarios where benefits from the application enablement capabilities I have described can have a measurable and relevant impact on everyday life and business.
If I told you there’s something all around us that, if connected, could significantly help reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, reduce pollution on a massive scale, reduce the amount of time we spend in our cars, make entire cities smarter and contribute to an overall improvement of peoples’ physical and mental health all at the same time, would you ask why we’re not already doing everything we can to harness its potential?
There are approximately 3.9 million miles of road in the US today, and while there are large stretches of road that don’t suffer from constant traffic, connecting high-traffic, urban roads to the IoE could accomplish all of the above. While we’re connecting roads, we can coat the surface with photosensitive material in the tar/asphalt mixture that would use sunlight to produce energy to power streetlights and much more!
With connected roads, traffic lights can dynamically shift their sequences to allow for an optimal flow of traffic, while cars can truly drive autonomously making commutes more like riding a train and roads safer for pedestrians, cyclists and passengers alike. Read More »
Positive Train Control (PTC) is one of many new safety measures mandated by the U.S. Federal Government to help prevent train-to-train collisions, derailments and other human-caused accidents. If warnings to slow down or to stop a train go unnoticed by an engineer, the locomotive’s onboard computer will automatically apply the brakes after a certain amount of time, with the intention to prevent a collision and potentially save lives.
Earlier this year in April, Cisco and Lilee Systems announced plans for the industry’s first end-to-end communications network for PTC with a proof-of-concept network, located in the San Francisco Bay area, to verify communications architecture. Today, this vision has become a reality that is ready for the market with Cisco Positive Train Control (PTC) 1.0.
Cisco 819 ISR and HD IP video camera on board one of 34 connected buses at Cisco Live
Last week when Cisco Live attendees hopped on one of 34 connected shuttle buses in Orlando, they saw the Internet of Things (IoT) in action. The buses provided service for a record breaking 20,000 attendees traveling between 17 hotels and the Orange County Convention Center.
Free Wi-Fi kept attendees securely connected from the time they left their hotel until they reached the convention center without losing connectivity. They simply used the same Cisco Live SSID and password on the buses as in the convention center. Greater productivity and an enhanced service for attendees made for a great experience…but, that’s not all.
Video cameras help keep passengers around the world safer and more connected and Cisco Live was no exception. Each connected bus had an on-board Cisco HD IP video camera which sent a live feed to a monitor in the Cisco IoT Pavilion.
More than 50 touchscreen kiosks helped attendees in the convention center track important event information along with the bus schedule and route information.
Beyond keeping attendees connected, there was a lot going on under the hood…literally. The Cisco 819 Integrated Services Router (ISR) did more than just provide passenger Wi-Fi. It enabled high speed voice, video and data communication 24/7 …everywhere! The vibrations of a moving bus, a few spilled beverages, Florida’s high humidity and hot summer temps posed no challenge for the ruggedized 819 ISR that delivers Machine-to-Machine (M2M) applications in even the harshest conditions.
Back in the Cisco Connected Transportation booth, a monitor showed live GPS tracking of every bus in the fleet and visually tracked all buses and their location on a color coded interactive map. On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) monitoring captured real-time vehicle telematics such as speed, tire pressure, RPM, engine temperature and fuel efficiency. This data was sent to the 819 ISR which transmitted the information to Davra Networks’ RuBan Suite for visual representation.
Wei Zou and Andy Manuel demonstrate Cisco’s Connected Fleet Management solution at Cisco Live.
Cisco Connected Fleet demo with video feed from buses (left screen) and Davra RuBan software showing GPS location of Cisco Live connected buses and telematics data (right screen).
Additionally, areas around schools, playgrounds and other locations with reduced speed limits can be identified as “safety” areas using geofencing to send warnings or alerts or even take automatic action when a warning is triggered. Managers can be notified immediately when accidents occur or speed thresholds are exceeded. On-board digital signs can display specific messages based on GPS location. The possibilities are nearly endless
The robust solution increases safety and fuel efficiency, reduces operating costs and enhances the passenger experience while helping transit operators comply with industry regulations and government mandates. Cisco’s Connected Fleet Management solution is bringing the IoT to life!
Wishing all of you in the U.S. a safe and happy 4th of July!