Posted by Big Gav in electric vehicles
IEEE Spectrum has an interesting interview with former head of R&D for General Motors, Larry Burns, talking about increasing the energy efficiency of transport - Larry Burns on Electric Vehicles and the Future of Personal Transportation.
Susan Hassler: What kind of things is your group working on at the University of Michigan? And also, what kind of things are you doing with Google? Because then you’re talking about self-driving cars, right?
Larry Burns: Well, yes. Where it gets exciting is the holistic opportunity that surfaces when you combine connected vehicles. A connected vehicle is basically a vehicle that communicates with things along the roadway system and with other vehicles, and you can get content brought in. So OnStar is an example of a connected vehicle. You’ll hear the term “telematics” as well. But connectivity is here. It’s happening, whether it’s in your navigation system or your Bluetooth system, whatever it is, you’re connected as you’re moving.
You combine that with autonomous vehicles, and those are vehicles that literally drive themselves. And that’s what Google’s working on, as well as many other companies. General Motors, Toyota, Daimler, BMW, all of those companies are working hard to push the limits of how far we can take technology so that vehicles can drive themselves.
Then you marry that up with shared vehicle systems. So we’ve all heard of Zipcar, RelayRides, Car2go—those are examples of a conclusion which is, “Geez, why are people buying all these cars and then having them be parked 90 to 95 percent of the time?” Whereas if we shared those cars, we could have those cars utilized 70, 80 percent of the day and dramatically reduce the parking challenge.
Better yet, as a user of that vehicle, I can get dropped off at my door if I combine that with a driverless system. So now you put those things together, and you can begin to think about tailoring the designs of the vehicles to be much lower mass. Ninety percent of the trips in the U.S. are one- and two-person trips. So if we can design a vehicle that’s tailored to the one- to two-person trip, that happens to weigh less than 1000 pounds, that happens to be shared, that happens to not need a driver so you can use your time as you like, and it can reposition itself when it’s dropped you off and pick up somebody else, suddenly you begin to see this world of a totally different mobility system that could be far less costly.
The point I’m trying to make here is we need to think about transforming the entire mobility system as a system. That’s what the Michigan Mobility Transformation Center is focused on, and the work I do with Google is really part of the self-driving vehicle program.
Everything I’ve mentioned is starting to converge. We’ve got electric vehicles. We’ve got shared vehicles. We have connected vehicles. We know how to tailor designs. And autonomous is the next piece that will fall into that puzzle. And when that fits into that piece, I think we’re going to have a transformation. And for the heated debate, passion around “Are battery-electric vehicles green?” really I think is a small discussion compared to what is the opportunity that we see down the road to really begin moving ourselves around in ways that make much, much better sense than moving around with 4000-pound cars, whether they’re electric cars or combustion cars.