How the Bypass could be a big, unnecessary, white elephant

Blogs are the individual views of Sudbury Vision members and do not necessarily represent the views of the group or group members.

Tim Regester

The arguments for the Sudbury Western Bypass (or indeed any alternate route) are predicated on two assumptions:

  1. The current levels of Traffic will be the same if not greater by the time it is built and this will also help resolve the Air Quality Management Area in Cross Street.
  2. The Bypass will open up large areas of greenfield land for development because there is insufficient brownfield land to build on.

The two arguments make up the economic case for any Bypass.

I have long been studying the development of Electric Vehicles and Autonomous driving. Until now I have considered this a transition from the manually driven, internal combustion engined vehicles (ICEV) to the AEV (Automatically driven Electric Vehicle) but only guessed a time scale of complete transition by about 2035-2040.

A few weeks ago a random conversation with a Road Safety guy made me think again. He suggested that the transition would be complete by 2025 and driven by the Insurance Companies increasing premiums for manually driven vehicles to make AEVs more economically affordable. I was shocked, but on reflection I was mostly concerned that this could end up as a like for like replacement, replacing ICEVs for AEVs and no change to the volume of cars on the road or the requirements for parking by these vehicles.

So yesterday the often wonderful FullyChargedShow Youtube Channel referenced a talk by Tony Seba who is a leader in disruptive Technology and business at Stanford University.

So I sought out this talk and the arguments are not just convincing but, imho almost indisputable. The change may well happen by 2025 because a perfect storm of Solar Energy adoption (and hence cheaper electricity) plus AEV developments would disrupt the energy industry, the Car Industry and the Transportation industries.

Some of his relevant conclusions are (but watch the video to see exactly how he reaches these conclusions) as follows:

– All new mass-market vehicles will be electric.
– All of these vehicles will be autonomous (self-driving) or semi-autonomous.
– The car market will shrink by 80%.
– Gasoline will be obsolete. Nuclear is already obsolete. Natural Gas and Coal will be obsolete.
– Up to 80% of highways will not be needed.
– Up to 80% of parking spaces will not be needed.
– The concept of individual car ownership will be obsolete.
– The Car Insurance industry will be disrupted. The taxi industry will be obsolete.

So if he is proven correct, then by 2025 there will be far less cars on the road and indeed much less road space required to allow them to travel, and only 20% of the parking currently taken up by ICEVs required for AEVs.

Note that this talk was given in Colorado USA where the concept of Ride Sharing is anaethema and entirely alien so not included in the mix, whilst in the UK this is entirely socially practical.

What happens is that TaaS or MaaS (Mobility as a Service) means if you want a vehicle to take you to work, there is no reason that vehicle could not pick up one or more work colleagues en route.

The upshot of this would make the traffic argument for a Sudbury Bypass completely obsolete by 2025 (i.e. before it is built) and the only issue would be dealing with HGVs and light Goods Vehicles, though both are being addressed by Automated Electric Vehicle Technology as well so might be no problem by then.

all Electric Light Goods Van
All electric Light Goods Van

So imagine the roads of Sudbury with possibly 20% of the parked cars of the present day and far less traffic, not requiring multiple lanes as the AEV technology is far more efficient than any human driver cohort. possibly up to 80% less traffic. This would be an astonishing change. But also an astonishing opportunity.

We hear time and again that there is no room on our roads for cyclists, but this would no longer be the case and with the equally swift adoption of Electric Bikes, Electric Cargo Bikes and all sorts of other similar vehicles (alongside the traditional pedal cycle) this would be an easy choice for trip into Town from Cornard, or Long Melford or taking the children to school. or indeed commuting to work. The AEV revolution can sit happily alongside the Active Travel revolution because the former helps enable the latter.

Now consider the parking reduction. Take Kingfisher Car Park or any large car park. if they don't need as much space possibly only up to a fifth of the space, then this land becomes usable for other uses, it becomes brownfield land available for development. Just in Sudbury this would probably provide enough development land for any desired increase in Housing. This makes the development argument for a Bypass obsolete by the time it is built.

Here is the video, it may destroy any preconceptions about AEVs Solar Energy and MaaS you may have had.