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Automation Benefits: The User's Perspective

As the old saying goes, "Time is money." While economies cycle between boom and recession, the overall secular trend shows that our real per capita wealth has risen steadily in constant dollars and there is every reason to believe that this secular trend will continue. While this increased wealth permits us to acquire many things, the one thing it cannot buy is more time in a day. However, we can and will use our wealth to make our time more productive to us.

One problem of automobile transportation is that – for all the technology advances over the past 100 years since its invention – a vehicle's core functionality and efficiency have changed little in that time: to get where you want to go you have to operate it yourself, or have someone drive you. And with rising congestion it takes longer and longer – more of our 24 hours a day of time – to get where we need to go. Since we cannot buy our way out of congestion, we can only invest more and more in making our time in traffic more comfortable. And invest we do! The comfort, reliability, and safety characteristics of today's automobiles are enormous improvement since we gave up the horse and carriage for cars.

What if we had the opportunity to take some of the money we pour into these "features" and use it instead to buy "time"? Evidence suggests overwhelmingly that we would do so. Where solo drivers are permitted the option of using "carpool" lanes for a fee, it turns out that large numbers of drivers will do so, currently paying up to $1.00 per mile to do so. To put it in terms that directly relate to the money value of time, over 30% of drivers would be willing to pay over $0.30 per mile to save one minute of travel time, as indicated in the accompanying chart. This chart is derived from data on just such a toll road, SR 91, a ten mile corridor that runs between Riverside County and Orange County in southern California.

QwikLane financial models indicate that an automated highway system can operate profitably at a toll rate between $0.15 and $0.20 per mile and attracting 15K to 20K users per work day. There are many urban traffic corridors that handle 200K to 300K trips per day that regularly manifest average speeds at half the posted speed limit (a "loss" of 1 minute per mile at a highway posted speed of 60 mph). SR 91 data suggest over 40% would pay $0.20 or more to avoid such traffic. This value generates more than enough surplus benefit to users to cover the costs of the automated vehicle.


A QwikLane automated highway buys time…and more:

  • Your own chauffeur while on the automated highway, freeing up that time for more productive use.
  • Vastly improved safety.
  • Eliminates stress of congested traffic conditions
  • Freedom to use hand-held devices safely while traveling
  • Fuel savings
  • Reduced emissions