Sunday, January 13, 2013

Weekend Links

  • More background on new semi-automated driving systems coming to market soon.  Obviously, these systems will do a lot of good in many ways.  But in a decade or so, it's going to be another notch down in the employment/population ratio for high school grads as these systems get good enough to dispense with taxi and truck drivers.  My guesses from 2010 of how this market would develop are here - I would say that piece is still not looking too bad; if anything, it's going a little faster than I expected.
  • The middle class is totally screwed.  I noticed this a while back; I believe many people need to think in terms of making pretty radical changes in their lives.  (My personal solution was to telecommute from a low-cost area to a high-wage area).
  • BMW bringing more diesel models to the US


jhm said...

For me, the most interesting thing about automated automobiles, is the potential advantage of streamlined highway traffic flows. I read a study which claimed that a relative handful of drivers tend to create most of the "pressure waves" which cause most gridlock, and that, on average, people could drive slower and get to their destination faster without them.

Brandon Thomson said...

The middle class is totally screwed. I noticed this a while back; I believe many people need to think in terms of making pretty radical changes in their lives.

I have found it challenging to communicate this idea to friends and family. Some absolutely do not want to hear it; others agree on a verbal level but it is clear by their actions that they do not really understand.

sunbeam said...

I wonder if this might mean a reduction of the total number of automobiles.

Zipcar was doing ok, the last time I checked. If you could do something like book a cab over the internet, and have it go to the spot you want, with no driver or dispatcher to change things up, it would make using taxis a lot easier.

I've called them before, and they never seem to arrive on time, or they might not arrive at all.

That might work differently up north, but they are unreliable (like the buses) in my part of the South.

Also every month or three I develop the need to use a pickup. If I could book one over the internet again, that would change a lot of things too.

Stephen B. said...

While I agree that driverless vehicles have huge possibilities for lessening driver workload and allowing the elderly to keep their cars, I am somewhat skeptical that delivery trucks and buses can be fully automated. Years ago I was a restaurant manager and dealt with accepting deliveries most every day. Have you ever unloaded 3 days' worth of hamburger buns for a Burger King, or accepted a produce order for the same? Absent a delivery driver, the restaurant staff is going to pick their order out of the truck's inventory? Really? As a vendor, would I allow a restaurant customer to pick their own order out of my driverless truck's cargo bay? Probably not. I think I'd still need an attendant to go along to verify delivery and protect from theft.

Nowadays I am on the staff of a special education school - a school that has a couple of dozen commuter students that all ride mini buses from a whole number of area towns. Scheduling and staffing these minivans with "School Bus" marquees on top is a real problem for the transportation companies and I bet they'd LOVE to get rid of the drivers, but how the hell could any school system ever allow school kids under 18 years of age to ride in an unmonitored, unattended vehicle, for special ed or even mainstreamed students? School buses, both large and small, would still need human, adult monitors.

Yes, I see savings for driverless vehicles, but while it might be possible to get rid of the FedEx guy, pulling most all drivers off of delivery/vendor vehicles and school buses just doesn't seem possible to me.

stravinsky7 said...

Stuart, long time lurker here.

Was wondering if you had a link to a good in-depth explanation of how radiative forcing works? The pop-culture explanation is that the atmosphere bounces radiation from the earth back to the earth, heating it up... but simple logic implies that the same mirror properties would actually keep out radiation in the first place, and thus the bounce-back could never catch up..

Loved your post on hadley cells, great link to the increase of blocking events. Also on the Nevens sea ice posts this summer. You are really helping to educate. Thanks.

Mr. Sunshine said...

RFID in each order, which would have to be prepackaged to some degree, will be used to keep customers honest. And yes, the task of unloading the trucks will be outsourced to the customers with some minor lowered cost incentive. The goal of my generation is to eliminate all jobs through automation. Thank God the oil crisis will prevent this - it can't get here soon enough.

Stuart Staniford said...

Stravinsky7: it's not exactly like a mirror. It's more that the atmosphere (including the greenhouse gases) is transparent to visible light (and most of the energy from sunlight is in the visible or near visible) but greenhouse gases are not transparent to long-wave infrared (the kind of radiation emitted by the earth which is much cooler than the sun). I think the clearest way to get an idea is to have a look at methane leaks in an infrared camera - eg here:

CO2 would be similar (but less opaque for a given quantity of gas). So then if you think of the atmosphere looking somewhat "smoky" in the infrared (not literally but similar in the sense that it absorbs infrared) but not looking smoky in the visible. On the way in, the sunlight is unimpeded by the greenhouse gases, but the IR on the way out is partially absorbed by the "smoke". Once absorbed, it heats the atmosphere up. Some of that heat is re-emitted upward, and some downward, and it's the downward portion that has the effect of increasing the temperature of the planet's surface.

Nick G said...


What do you think of the idea that the recent decline in percentage of people working is due to aging of the workforce and the recession?

Here's someone else's presentation:

The employment percentage fell in 2001 because a recession started in 2001. Look at the chart -- every recession results in a fall in the employment percentage.

The employment percentage has been in long-term decline due to simple demographics -- aging baby boomers -- as the BLS data clearly shows:
* Participation rates are highest for age 25-34 and 35-44, slightly lower from 45-54, and much lower from 55-65.[1]
* Population in the 25-44 age bracket fell from 2000 to 2010, but increased sharply in the 45-54 and especially 55-65 brackets.[2]

As a result of these two facts, it was inevitable that the US's labour force participation rate (and, hence, employment rate) was going to fall between 2000 and 2010, and will continue to fall from 2010 to 2020.


the BLS data clearly shows that demographics is driving the decline in the employment ratio. I'll briefly summarize what that data shows:

1.Old people are less likely to be employed than young people.
2.An increasingly large fraction of the population is old people.
3.Thus, the fraction of people employed is falling.
Labour force participation fell by 2.4% between 2000 and 2010. If we take the 2000 participation rates and the 2010 population mix, we still get a fall of about 1.3%; in other words, more than half of the difference is due to a shift in the demographic mix. The employment ratio always falls during a recession, as the original chart indicates, suggesting that most of the remaining 1.1% is likely due to comparing an economic peak (2000) to an economic trough (2010).

Stuart Staniford said...

Nick - I always look at the E/P for ages 25-54 which largely eliminates the demographic issues.