Do you ever think back to how things used to be? Auckland motorways used to be known as the car park. My commute on the North Shore is so easy these days, thanks to the awesome travel information we have at our fingertips and some awesome transport planning by Auckland Transport and the NZ Transport Agency.
“You have no scheduled appointments today”, the display on my mobile says. “Are you going to work?”
I speak to it: “Yes. Audio on.”
“Travel time via the motorway is 67 minutes. Travel time via Public Transport is 23 minutes if you leave now.”
“Travel time in 30 minutes?”
“Estimated travel time in 30 minutes via motorway is 82 minutes or 27 minutes via Public Transport. Would you like me to book a car park at the Long Bay satellite Park & Ride?”
“Your car park at Long Bay Beach Park & Ride is number 118.”
As I get into my car, it says “Mobile connected, confirm navigate to Park 118 at Long Bay Beach.”
“Turn right in 200 meters car park is on the right……You have arrived. Buses to the Albany train station are available every 5 minutes.”
“The next train is full, another train is arriving in 5 minutes, seat 15A reserved, use your Hop Card for a free coffee while you wait. Confirm flat white no sugar.”
“You have 3 VIP emails. Read?”
“Yes, audio off.”
I smile as the train races past the cars on the motorway, still a little impressed that it is flowing as well as it is given that Auckland’s population has increased by 250,000 in the last 4 years.
New aftermarket GPS car nav units have been blamed for a spate of car accidents due to inaccurate map data. The wave of new aftermarket HUD (Heads Up Display) aftermarket car navigation devices over the last few years were ,et with much enthusiasm. Being able to purchase devices like the Garmin HUD (How did they manage to get that as a brand name?) that launched in 2013 for under $200 bundled with a nav unit or $150 on its own, made it the next car enthusiasts must have device (toy).
With in car options (admittedly including in-car entertainment, climate control, car computer etc) adding an easy $2,000 to the bill for people who could afford a new car, a solution that cost that can go into virtually any car was a great starter for 10%.
Touted as being much safer than in dash systems because you don’t have to take your eyes off the road, it appears to have unwittingly revealed a much more critical situation that has caused stress and confusion and has allegedly resulted in accidents and assertions of liability being placed on the manufacturers of the nav systems.
The reason is that in many cases the map data is either out of date or inaccurate. This means that the driver is seeing both the road in front of them through the windscreen as well as a laser image representation of the road from the HUD. When these do not match and the driver is in a relaxed frame of mind (partly due to confidence in the GPS car nav data) confusion may arise. For example driving late at night or on a foggy morning on a country road with poor visibility and the nav displays a sharp turn (but the road has been realigned) could result in a nasty accident. Urban roads (such as Wellington in New Zealand) where one-way streets were changed to run in the opposite direction are another classic example.
Psychologist John Doe from Lost Highway University said “When drivers used traditional in-dash car nav devices, they relied mostly on auditory instructions, glancing at the nav unit from time to time to confirm the details, but then interpreted the information and commands based on what they were seeing. This meant that if there was a discrepancy in the directions, common sense usually prevailed and they would act on what they actually saw through the windscreen. Since large numbers of people started using HUD systems, they mentally merged the heads up data with what they saw through the windscreen and when they contradicted each other, this caused confusion and stress. It only takes momentary confusion at 50 miles per hour to find themselves in an accident situation,” he explained.
The more sophisticated units such as the Pioneer system released 2013 in the video below, do have some advantages over the cheaper units because they also include character recognition of outside objects such as speed signs. This means that if the car navigation database says the speed is 50 mph but the sign on the road says 30 mph, the navigation instructions will give higher credence to the physical roadside sign.
John Doe went on say that many car nav companies have managed to get their prices very low by purchasing cheap car navigation data and not updating them as often. People accepted that for a low price, they weren’t going to get high detail map updates and because the map wasn’t in their face, they were able to deal with the discrepancies.
Portable HUD car GPS manufacturers are now adding modular components to their systems including WiFi cameras and adding software to their Smartphones and Portable Car GPS devices including character recognition, distance and speed of the car in front and connection to in car entertainment such as streaming audio. Legislators are now looking at enforcement of restrictions, ensuring that drivers can only see car control related information on the HUD, ensuring they can’t be distracted by videos. email messages etc which can also technically be displayed on the screen whilst driving.
Everyone thought the new Auckland transport plan was going to be about a second harbour crossing, a tunnel, more busways an extra lanes. The new Labour Government together with Auckland Transport came up with a much cheaper plan and it only took a year to complete!
Yep, it was pretty obvious given input from rich list Kiwi, Allan Gibbs of Aquada fame. he started with cars, then trucks and then he said to the Government (I didn’t get where I am today by building tunnels) why not give me a small fraction of the money you were going to spend digging holes under the harbour and we’ll drive on water?
So now he is building Gibbs Amphibious Buses for Auckland Transport (yes I know Aqua Ducks have been around for years but not for commuters) and we now have a regular stream of amphibious cars going from Gulf Harbour all the way through to the city, the inner harbour, and even a special commuter lane to Onetangi on Waiheke Island. It was pretty obvious really wasn’t it? I just don’t know why they didn’t think of it back in 2013?
The toll booths on the boat ramps can be a bit annoying on sunny days, but I guess that’s the price you pay. The bonus is you can try to catch your dinner on the way home from the office.
“Would you like to order your favorite coffee from Starbucks? You have been driving for a little over 2 hours and there is one just a mile ahead.”
Ford Sync is looking after my well being. It also asked if I had any passengers that I would like to order for and I was able to order for all of us without lifting my fingers from the wheel. I then told Spotify to play some more old school Bruno Mars as headed for the cafe.
I was also able to reserve an EV carpark right by the front door, so that the car could get a lift at the same time as we had our coffee break.
You won’t ever see me in a self driving car if I can help it, but I do like the new technology:)
Google Glasses and dozens of other brands of Augmented Reality goggles hit the road running for Christmas 2013 and over the next couple of years AR applications went from Wow to business as usual. Today people look at you sideways in many cities if you aren’t wearing glasses. But there has been a downside. People can’t bear to be without them.
Not that long ago people had separation anxiety when they didn’t have their mobile with them, then their smartphone. Now its their AR glasses. Hospitals and A&R clinics are reporting many people are presenting with a feeling of vertigo with some patients reporting in an almost psychotic state, saying they feel they have been detached from the real world.
Others are describing the real world without AR glasses as flat, 2 dimensional, when they don’t have access to features they take for granted such as information about locations, deals, games and access to their friends via social media, the ability to take pictures or view them. Many find it difficult to function because they now rely on their glasses to tell them everything from the names of people they ‘know’ through facial recognition (including information on their last point of contact, meeting, email) to public transport timetables or driving directions. They no longer seem to have the ability to cope without this information beaming onto their eyeballs. The are unable to make decisions and are so used to large volumes of information at their fingertips that they are suffering from sensory deprivation with their eye-wear.
Insurance companies who have benefited from knowing much more about their clients, have been caught by surprise and won’t pay out on claims until the Syndrome has been recognised as an official condition and because they AR glasses are now a way of life, no one really has answers on what to do next.
President (Hilary) Clinton has announced that the USA is going to collaborate on the creation of a permanent moon base together with China and Virgin Galactic. This base will support further exploration of the moon and provide a stepping stone to explore Mars and other planets.
“Our plan, together with our partners is to create a base which will be both scientific and commercial. This is a 10 year plan which has parallels to that of President Kennedy so many years ago, to put man on the moon before we even knew how to achieve that.” said President Clinton. “Now of course we know exactly what we need to do and how to do it and are in a position to achieve this new dream well within this time. So many discoveries and inventions resulted from the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs. We anticipate a new renaissance of technology, bio-engineering and hi-tech industries which will help the USA and its partners grow out of the fiscal slumps of the last 5 years.”
She went on to say, “This initiative will create thousands of new jobs for both the USA and our partner China as new industries that can benefit from low gravity are developed. Additional funding will come from commercial activities of companies such as Virgin Galactic who are going to build a lunar hotel and resort, the rights to do this come with an agreement to provide a percentage of space on their craft as payload for the base development. They have also won the rights to ship finished goods back to China from the lunar factories.”
Virgin Galactic CEO Richard Branson, said that he was delighted to be involved in this initiative which will help him realize a lifetime dream to have his own space port and space tourism business. “Some people said I was just a dreamer. I say that if you don’t dream big, you won’t achieve big results.” Virgin Galactic has already pre-sold over 1,000 room nights in their first hotel before the ground has even been broken.
I once said that I would never commute across the bridge any more for any job. Spending an hour each way from home to work just didn’t make sense, what a total waste of time. Well almost, because I used to listen to podcasts on the way that I might not have made time for otherwise, but I have to say I hated it.
Then with the increase in population and the lack of initiative and imagination from Council, NZTA and Government in creating a decent mass transit system it become an hour and a half each way at peak times and still an hour each way in off peak. When Imersia was a relatively small company, it wasn’t such a problem because I could start work from home and head in the office once the traffic died down, but these days it doesn’t really die down at all.
The book Urban Legend that came out back in ’12 said it all. What would Auckland have been like if they had listened to Robbie? We could have been a phenomenally successful city. But we didn’t and now we have a nice ring system that travels at 10km an hour at peak and the Northern Motorway slows to 8km per hour. I used to feel like hopping out of my car on the motorway, leaving it there and running home.
Heading to Long Bay on the Ferry After Work
Then they managed to give the PC brigade the slip and followed the example of Sydney and put ferry wharf’s into Long Bay, Browns Bay and Takapuna and it was problem solved. Our offices are in the Viaduct and commuting is now a pleasure. I walk down to Long Bay, unless its raining, then I park my car in the ‘Park and Cruise’ just up from the beach. I have a flat white on the ferry and clear my inbox using their WiFi, whilst enjoying our awesome coastline on the way into town.
On the way home, especially in winter, I get to enjoy the beautiful city lights, instead of inhaling diesel fumes on the clogged motorway. I just have to wonder why they didn’t do this years ago. More people get to enjoy our North Shore beaches, the wharf’s are great for fishing and strolling along and there are less cars on the motorways. It cost a hell of a lot less to build too.
I was just sitting down to dinner this evening and I heard this loud noise, POP, POP, POP, POP. It reminded me of back when I was a young fella riding a Triumph Saint which used to backfire when the timing was slightly out. At first I thought it was lightning, we seem to get a lot more storms these days, semi tropical. One minute the weather isn’t that bad, nek minit its persisting down. Perhaps Auckland weather has always been like that, but it does seem to be more dramatic these days.
I remember back in the day when that was a 12 hour flight and was an absolute major. You would lose pretty much a full day each way and arrive jetlagged heading for business trips to the USA. Now its a meal and a quick movie, it just about takes longer to get to and from the airport, through immigration and security than it does to get to Los Angeles.
I’d love to have another ride on that old Triumph again though, backfires and all.