Autonomous Vehicles, On Street Enforcement, Chargers


Autonomous Vehicles, On Street Enforcement, Chargers

One of the first things I did when I got to Reno was to settle my gambling debts. Before Covid, I had had an interesting discussion about autonomous vehicles, with one of our more thoughtful colleagues.

As I remember, he was adamant that they were ever going to happen, and I was equally sure that it was “when, not if.” 

I bet him ten of your Yankee dollars that before the end of the (last) decade a fully autonomous vehicle would be on sale somewhere in the world. 

He was right about the timescale, and I duly paid my debt. 

However, I think that he is wrong about the future. I have already written about autonomous taxis in Abu Dhabi. 

They are running on the public roads at the whim of public users. In China, things are even more advanced. Autonomous taxis have gone into production and the total market, which is already worth $1.5bn, is predicted to reach $100bn by 2030. China leads the world in EVs; it looks like they are ahead of the pack here, too.

In 1991, the UK government moved street parking enforcement from being a Police responsibility to becoming something that the local authority could adopt, and a new industry was created. Companies popped up overnight, like mushrooms, to take on the work for councils that had neither the expertise nor the resources needed to accomplish. 

And of course, problems immediately started as companies that were getting paid by the ticket started to push and bend the rules to maximize income. My favorite story was the guy that saw a coach parked across three meters: he wrote three citations and stuck one on the back, one in the middle and one on the windscreen. 

Faced with a move from a Police system where you could expect to pay about one ticket every thousand offences, to a new “civil” regime where, it seemed, you got a ticket if you stopped at a red light, there was a certain level of discontent. 

Mutterings over afternoon tea, you know the sort of thing; it is England after all. Anyhoo, councils were forced to rewrite their contracts to remove the incentives. 

At least, that’s what they told the public.

The market has now collapsed to just a few large provider companies, some of which also provide other enforcement services, such as littering. 

Imagine my surprise when research shows that nine out of ten councils are using contracts that incentivize the issue of citations! This despite the government guidance explicitly excluding pay per fine incentives. In the worst cases, councils were allegedly overlooking major contract breaches because of the high number of citations issued. 

So, just like parking, these contracts are going to have to be rewritten, not least of all because, as currently framed they are ultra vires. I wonder if the courts will start tossing cases on the grounds that process was flawed and illegal. 

And, of course, just like parking, there will no longer be incentives to write more tickets, honest.

Now we all know that electric vehicles need chargers and one of the tiny little problems that my government sort of forgot to deal with in its dash to a carbon-free future was that particular issue. I am lucky, I can park my car on my own land and buy my own charger, which will cost about $1,000. 

The government plan to support car owners in inner city areas without off-street space seems to be to put their fingers in their ears and go LA LA LA very loudly. Wait, perhaps I am wrong? 

The government has just announced a $24m fund to provide 1,000 new on-street residential chargers. This sounds good at first sight, but when I look at where this money is going, I can’t help but scratch my head. 

Many of the councils getting the money cover some of the most remote rural areas in England. And using the full resources of my pre-decimal maths degree I figure that each of these new charging points will be costing something like $24,000. 

Now, I know that these multi-user charging points have to have a module to handle the accounting for multiple users, but should that increase the cost 24-fold? 

And why are they putting chargers in parts of the world where there are more sheep than people? I suspect that the answer is LA LA LA. 

Article contributed by:
Peter Guest
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