In addition to pollution, noise and safety concerns in high population density environments, there are other critical transportation problems in cities. Bulky automobiles clog streets to which they are confined by obstructing each other while they drive in narrow streets with insufficient number of narrow lanes. Like rafts, they are built for linear movement, not for sharp and zero-radius turns. Also, parked vehicles that block what could be travel lanes, drivers searching for scarce parking and those who double park, pretty much disqualify automobiles from being efficient urban transportation.
To us, moving around cities by any other means than taxi became a badge of protest against the dysfunctionality of bottlenecks and traffic jams.
Simply looking at the available width of city streets as a ratio to the area allocated to interior spaces of tall buildings and sidewalks, parks and plazas through which they run makes it obvious why urban transportation is constantly beset by bottlenecks. Research shows that about 76% of automobiles driving in urban areas have a sole occupant. Not surprisingly the lack of efficient urban transportation ranks as the #1 frustration to urban dwellers.
Automobiles, SUVs, pickup trucks and vans take up around 5 times the space they need to transport an individual. Observing city streets, our founders noticed that if a street has two thoroughfare lanes and a parking lane in each direction, eliminating the parking lanes increases moving lanes by 50%. On streets that have one moving lane and one parking lane in each direction, removing parked vehicles increase thoroughfare lanes by 100%. A one way street with one moving lane and two lanes for parked automobiles can allow 200% more travel lanes by prohibiting parking. Studies show that cruising for parking spaces is a significant cause of clogged streets.
But even mass transit has its drawbacks. The routes are fixed and frequently not aligned with the riders. Potential riders will only walk a short distance to take urban transportation. Often, mass transit schedules are asynchronous with the schedules of busy urban dwellers and commuters. Frequent delays while traveling and also when stopped are frustrating to riders. Riders also complain of lack of comfort and privacy. Aging and disabled persons find mass transit to be difficult. To many, mass transit is at odds with individual tendencies to prefer personal mobility.
Observing how difficult it is to get around cities, our founders also noticed the ubiquity of real-life obstacles that are barriers to cars. Automobiles are too large for their function, and awkward moving in slow speed and crowded environments. Urban mobility is beset by infrastructural, architectural, natural and temporary obstacles. Urban planners have finally turned their attention to the concept of urban transportation equity.
Cities are not flat. A very large percentage of urban spaces require multilevel vertical travel and narrow egress and ingress for access. Automobiles cannot access sidewalks, pedestrian spaces, interiors of buildings and shopping malls, parks, plazas, porches, train stations, airports, stairways, elevators or escalators.
We began to wonder why we should limit our travel to streets when there is every reason not to. What if we make vehicles about 1/5 the size of automobiles, equip them to steer nimbly in all directions, give them 3D maneuverability and eliminate all parking? We can get a lot more people through the same streets in less time, especially if the vehicles are autonomous, connected and communicating.
Then we thought that with the huge growth in online purchases, and store and restaurant deliveries, an autonomous robotic last-mile and beyond-last yard street-to-suite vehicle, would go a long way to solving the demand for on-demand, short time window deliveries. Half of inhabitants of cities are not home during regular business hours. Hundreds of millions of redelivery attempts cost billions of dollars. Delivery drivers suffer an unacceptably high incidence of back injuries lifting, carrying, and walking upstairs with heavy packages. Along with the shift caused by e-commerce, urban business and stores have moved to just-in-time deliveries which cause frequent deliveries of one or two packages at a time.
Going back to the analogy of river travel, we worked on what it would take to really accomplish the goals of moving around cities easily and efficiently.
The answer is autonomous portability that allows personal vehicles to go anywhere on-street, off-street, in pedestrian areas, and building interiors. We invented the multilevel urban portability vehicle that overrides ubiquitous indoor and outdoor urban obstacles that are barriers to other vehicles.