It’s good to be back in Taipei after a bracing couple of weeks breathing in the sharp, fresh air of the south Lincolnshire fens.
I would like to claim that I was thinking Deep Thoughts during my daily walks along the surrounding country lanes and pathways, but I would say that my trip was more of a digital detox tour than an exploration of new intellectual frontiers. We get so much information thrust into our heads these days that it’s necessary find time to switch off.
Still, I wasn’t entirely able to shed all thoughts of work, not least because even when I was strolling along the most peaceful country lanes it never took very long before the silence was shattered by the roaring engine of a car, tractor, or heavy goods vehicle flashing past me. For all the grandiose visions that are currently being spun about the promise of the mobility revolution, it’s going to require some radical steps if the potential benefits of autonomous transportation are going to reach rural areas anytime soon.
Perhaps the most important reason for this is simply that cars are essential for living in the countryside because public transportation services are so scant and unreliable – as I was reminded when I had to wait for forty-five minutes in the driving rain for a bus to take me into the nearby town. How can people be expected to consider switching to mass transportation options if they can’t even be sure that the most basic services will run on time?
A second key reason is the challenge of getting produce from the fields to processing plants and to market. While autonomous trucks may be great for highways, I can’t see them trundling down the twisting, pot-holed lanes of rural Lincolnshire anytime soon. Which is a great pity, not just because of how noisy and dangerous they are but the damage they cause to the roads – not to mention the fear they inspire in pedestrians like me whenever they hear them approaching.
So will rural areas have to wait until urban districts have figured out how implement the mobility revolution before they too can take advantage of its benefits? It’s tempting to think that the answer is “yes”, but after my recent experiences with LSEVs in Qufu, I’m not so sure. More on this topic in future entries.