A scenario for commuting along Interstate 55

Electric Sheep

On heavily trafficked arterial roads in Chicago and cities throughout the country, human driving faded away as driverless cars became more affordable and widely available. Digital mobility companies made large profits on cheap vehicle detection systems and sensors retrofit into old cars. Collisions and fender benders became rare events once a tipping point was reached, and about half the vehicles in circulation were converted to autonomous. Even the ongoing challenges of maintenance and weather that plagued the 20th century with traffic deaths no longer pose significant threats to our present vehicle herds. Hacking, spoofing, and jamming remain a constant concern, but the convenience, speed, and expansive mobility now available to larger parts of the population have made those concerns pale in comparison to the broader benefits to society.

The clutter of omnipresent traffic lights gave way to smaller furnishings with imbedded infrastructure that helped conduct the flow of vehicles. Safer navigation created the possibility of more flexible car construction, and the big car manufacturers began to develop easy platforms for car owners to customize and adapt vehicles to their own lifestyles using simple tools. Local digital fabrication shops and online retailers now deliver custom parts on demand and just in time. Car dealerships compete with simulation kiosks in parking places and grocery stores to portray the experience of a specific vehicle alteration and instantly make a purchase.

Vehicles are adapted as needs and desires change throughout the week, month, or year. Aside from heavily branded rideshare vehicles, cars are now as diverse and individualized as the population itself. Self-organizing parades of color coordinated vehicle groups marking each holiday create sudden spectacles in the constant flow of vehicles. Commuting, communication and community have all become integrated in the daily movement of lives around the expanding metropolis.

Guidance 

Sensing systems developed by private industries quickly proved their viability on public roads, but reliable and secure vehicle to vehicle communication took longer to develop, as it required coordination between industry and the federal government to establish standards and implement the systems. Vehicle speed, passing priorities, and even lane changes are negotiated in real-time with algorithms based on data contributed by each car..

After early struggles over the uneven distribution of ridesharing and claims of discrimination, voters demanded that the government mandate equitable traffic distribution.

While local decisions are automated, elected committees are locked in perpetual negotiation to regulate the balance between speed, energy efficiency, and traffic flow throughout the metro area, thus greatly impacting property values and commerce.

Sponsors offer members vehicle share clubs special rates in exchange for testing products and participating in surveys during a journey. Students and low-income riders usually take advantage of subsidized fares, sometimes at even better rates than the public buses and trains of the past. Networked riders connect based on interests, professions, and lifestyles for a reasonable membership fee. Developers motivate increased rideshare traffic along branded corridors by subsidizing infrastructure improvements as well as stunning spectacles on building facades.

Formations 

Interstate highways carry more vehicles but move with greater efficiency than we experienced in the 20th century. Ride sharing has made it less common to see just one person in a car on the highway and strangers used to sharing a vehicle while crossing the state. Vehicles travel longer distances than ever but to a combination of destinations along I-55, instead of just to the Chicago Loop and back. Corporations subsidize fleets of vehicles with quiet cabins that allow employees to be more productive and extend their work day. Riders happily pay for premium data connection during their commute in exchange for more affordable real estate. A short commute is good, but a productive commute is better. Subdivisions and villages tout the latest workspace modules within public rideshare stations to attract residents. Crowded minibuses remain a popular option for students and low income workers traveling on I-55 to Chicago’s South Side. The flocks release vehicles to make on-demand stops and rider exchanges.

Autonomous rideshare vehicles roam country roads and cul-de-sacs to quickly serve communities designed for privately owned vehicles. Designated stations feature meeting spaces and vehicle servicing during short waits. The dynamic formation of pelotons reduces wind resistance while also allowing vehicles to break away to local destinations. A slow 65 mph travel lane remains designated for legacy vehicles waiting for upgrades. Citizens from throughout the region have redefined the workplace by coordinating meetings at decentralized locations convenient for all parties involved and maintaining correspondence while in transport. Rush hour has ceased to exist since the driverless transportation network began to assist with coordinating travel demands without disrupting productivity.