The city bus service is a poor transportation system. It’s slow, there are so many stops to pick or drop single passengers. It doesn’t pick you up where you are nor drop you off where you want to be. It is almost as expensive as owning a car. Users don’t feel the cost because the bus system is subsidized. Basically, the present bus system is not the best.
On CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Dec. 1, 2013, Amazon.com announced that they were working on a airplane drone system to deliver packages. This small drone would leave the warehouse with up to 5 pounds and deliver it to any location within 10 miles. It would then fly back for another package. The drone will be controlled by a computer system and satellite GPS. It would have onboard electronics sensors. They expect the system to be running in three years, 2016. Federal regulations seem to be the biggest problem.
New busy system
Suppose we had a drone bus which could carry six people. It would be about the size of a small car, driverless and computer controlled. It would be much like Amazons drone except that it would be larger and confined to the streets.
In the new system, passenger control points would be all around the city. These would be places where passengers could insert their bus card and indicate where they wanted to go. The system will already know where they are. The system would allocate the bus based on other similar request. Once a bus was near full or a time lapse had expired the bus would drive to the various drop-off points. The computer would attempt to make the pick/drop points as few as possible by gathering passengers going to or from the same location. The computer selection and the small sizes of the bus is the secret of the efficiency of the system.
When the system first starts, pick/drop points would have to be on well-traveled roads and the old bus stops. Later developments would allow cell phones with GPS to be control points. Five or six people could call for a bus at a particular time to take them to their work, shopping or theater. This automated bus system would be a low-cost taxi service.
Surprisingly, this automated bus system could be cheaper than owning a car. A car stands outside your house or place of employment 90 percent of the time. When you use the bus, it would be operating, servicing people as much as 60 percent of the time. Since there would be more than one person in the bus, the fuel economy per person would be much better. Bus costs would be spread over more people, it would cost less for each one.
If the bus system developed to its possibilities it could change the way we build our cities. Now, the average citizen looks to have a three-bedroom home with a picket fence and a yard. This makes American cities very large in land area. One almost has to have a car to get around. If the new bus system became as good as it could be, people would be willing to give up their backyard and live in an apartment and not own a car. The bus system would be so good they could go anywhere in the city, inexpensively.
• Retired engineer Jim Taunt is a 26-year resident of Ahwatukee Foothills.