Alain L. Kornhauser *71

Fall 2023

ORF 467: Transportation Systems Planning & Analysis

Class: Mon. & Wed. 1:30-2:50pm; 108 Friend Center +
Precepts: Monday 7:30-8:20pm; 110 Friend Center
TA: Yizhan Shu
Course Overview: Studied is the transportation sector of the economy from systems technology, planning, deployment and operational perspectives. The focus is on fundamental modeling, analytical methodologies and artificial intelligence (AI) that support:

  • regional, national and international; long and short-range; Capital and Operational Planning, made by public sector oversight entities
  • the formulation and analysis of technological innovations and infrastructure investments made by both the private sector and the public sector, especially those focused on the application of automation to fundamentally improve the transportation sector of the economy,
  • the real-time operational decision making by transportation service companies, and
  • investigation of the evolving use of artificial intelligence in the safe and efficient operation of various modes of transportation, especially road transportation.

The transportation sector of the economy is one in which a continuing tug-of-war exists between the private sector and the public sector that seeks a balance between private sector market forces and broad oversight and infrastructure investments by the public sector.

The transport sector of the world economy is a fundamental contributor to improved quality-of-life. Better mobility is a better life, for the most part. The sector is a complement of a vast (sunk) investment in physical infrastructure, conventional operating practices and technologies, established/entrenched laws, rules, policies public oversight and regulations, established/entrenched private operating companies. In the recent past (last 100 years or so) the public sector and the military have played major roles in the technological, operational and physical infrastructure elements of the transport sector; however, the continued progress of Moore s Law in computation, data storage and communications is spurring the private sector to aspirations of r/evolutionizing and substantially disrupting much of the transport sector of the world economy. These disruptive efforts, focused on automation and improved efficiency in addressing uncertainty, are attracting enormous private sector intellectual talent and financial investment. The fact that Adam Jonas, Morgan Stanley lead automotive sector analyst put a $175B valuation on Waymo, a company that has yet to earn its first dollar is just the tip of the iceberg.

While the road transport sector of the world economy is in the cross hairs of many of these technological disruptions, the rest of the modes of transport air, water rail and even pipe are all under siege.

Traditional issues that continue to be important are:

  • Energy: 1/3 of the energy consumed in the US is consumed by the transportation sector. Today, essentially all is carbon based. Most is used to power our road transport system. Concern about global warming, oil spills, $147 a barrel oil, hybrids, and the vehicle and infrastructure needs convert to the electrification of our dominant road transportation system.
  • Security: the heightened sensitivity following 9-11, international terrorism and hacking
  • Funding: the construction and maintenance of road and public transportation infrastructure has been funded by a most elegant system of taxing fuel consumption (gasoline/diesel), which unfortunately has plateaued with declining expectations. Can concepts such as value (aka congestion) pricing, private toll roads, VMT (vehicle-mile-tax), and for-profit mass transportation pick up the slack and address the fact that electric vehicles don not consume any gasoline or diesel?
  • Local issue: Traffic congestion, road construction, transportation-related environmental issues and the stagnation of transportation funding sources are dominant themes of grass roots planning and policy analysis,
  • Fundamental equity issues associated with those that have good access to mobility (largely those that own cars) and those that for what ever reason, do not have access to a personal automobile,
  • Intelligent Transportation Technology (ITS): With roots in Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) beginning more than 40 years ago, computer and information technology has promised that it would revolutionize mass transit and provide unparalleled mobility for all. To date, success has been mixed. PRT never got off the ground, but is still trying. Automated Highway System (AHS) have suffered a similar fate. More modest efforts involving electronic tolling (EZPass, et al), turn-by turn navigation (CoPilot|Live. and others) have become mainstream and once promising V2V and Connected Vehicle initiatives seem to be running out of steam.
  • Apps, Automation & Artificial Intelligence: Over the pat1 13 years or so since the DARPA Challenges there has been ever increasing interests among auto manufacturers and suppliers, technology/entrepreneurial companies, local and national governments around the globe and the general public in fundamentally transforming the mobility of both people and goods and, as a result, substantially changing where and how we choose to live, work and play. New and exciting are systems that look to deliver improved mobility through vehicle sharing that augments traditional vehicle ownership, conventional mass transit and, consequently, our fundamental life styles. This includes the recent surge of bike sharingcar sharing and mobile app based ride-hailing systems.

What is HOT is what I have dubbed as "SmartDrivingCars". This term includes Safe-driving Cars (and trucks & buses) that simply have Automated (Collision Avoidance and Lane Centering) Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), Self-Driving Cars that allow drivers to take their hands off the wheel and feet off the pedals in some driving environments at some times and Driverless Cars that drive themselves the whole way from some origins to some destinations over some routes at some times and, as such, can operate completely empty with no human on-board in those situations. The key aspect of these technologies is that they operate and share the existing streets and roadways with conventional human-operated cars, trucks, buses, bicycles, pedestrians, etc. Safe-driving Cars, the simple collision-avoidance version holds the promise of substantially improving safety and saving money. Self-Driving Cars extend the safety of Safe-driving cars to deliver substantially enhanced driver comfort, convenience and flexibility. The Driverless fundamentally disrupts the mobility system by enabling the provision of high-quality demand responsive mobility to essentially everyone, revolutionizing the efficiency and executions of the distribution of goods at substantially more affordable cost and, in the process substantially reducing (>50%) energy consumption and pollution, and substantially reducing congestion. Seems like a winner!!

Automation technology is rapidly evolving in road vehicles which can trace a beginning with the DARPA 2004,5 &7 Grand Challenges and subsequently spurred by Google and others to deliver a driverless car to the marketplace. A must read chronicling this period is Autonomy by Larry Burns. The traditional automobile industry has responded by beginning to roll out its own Safe-driving collision-avoidance and Self-driving technology that may well make driverless technology a reality in the near future. Since the evolution of this technology may well have a viable business case through fundamental safety improvements in its initial stage, it may well have a feasible evolutionary path to attainment of full driverless. If so, such technology could dramatically change personal mobility and have a substantial impact on land-use, goods movement and the future shape of our cities. See Adam Jonas View on Business Case for SmartDrivingCars: 2-minute version; 12-minute version. A substantial portion of the course is oriented to the study this technology and its implications on how we live.

A substantial part of the course will focus on SmartDrivingCars, the design, creation, testing and enhancement of their automated control systems, the real-time management and operation of fleets of these vehicles, the dynamic deployment and market adoption by the traveling public and the movement of goods, and most importantly, on its implications on how we live and the quality of our lives in the years ahead. See the course syllabus for a description and more information.


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