(ac-tin /akten/ a family of multifunctional proteins found in contractile elements in muscle that are critical to the mobility of organisms).
This is the supporting document to the grant application I have submitted to the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transit in the hopes of implementing MoveUP as a digital backbone to a comprehensive, collaborative transportation system for smaller cities and rural communities.
Introduction and Outline
Transportation is a fundamental component of community
health, affecting every individual within the community and every component of
life including employment, business development and success, education,
nutrition, activity, and entertainment.
Transportation has been repeatedly sited as the most important need in
community health needs assessments 1,2. A lack of adequate transportation negatively
impacts all aspects of individual health as a major social determinant of need 3.
Buses provide an efficient way to move people when applied
in densely populated urban areas.
However, buses continuously demonstrate an inability to meet the needs
of small cities and rural areas with a lower population density, where the lack
of consistent ridership and a necessity of widely spaced stops negates their
advantages. Furthermore, there are
essentially no transportation options in rural areas for people who do not have
access to a car for whatever reason.
The automobile has advanced tremendously, and there are many
untapped opportunities that could be applied to small cities and rural areas
with the combined potential of providing effective personal mobility for
all. Persistence of antiquated models
such as buses and taxicabs operating using telephones and taximeters has
prevented the implementation and study of a comprehensive model that takes
collective advantage of numerous and significant advances in this arena. Digital platforms with enhanced connectivity;
pure electric drivetrains with vastly lower service and use costs;
semi-autonomous and impending full-autonomous capabilities for reduced
incidence and insurance costs and enhanced fleet capabilities; shared ownership
and shared use models; fleet unification for simplicity; assembling these new
but currently available components into a cohesive and integrated system has
the potential to transform life in more rural settings across the country.
Application of these advances can be performed in a
cost-effective and ultimately financially sustainable manner that will allow
data collection on fleet needs such as vehicle number and miles travelled per
person, power consumption and costs, insurance models, service requirements,
and continued system improvements.
Applied properly, this could bring much needed and viable transportation
solutions to unserved rural populations and result in the enhanced efficiency
or progressive phase-out of expensive bus systems that only provide inefficient
transportation to a small subset of the population that has no other options.
- Digital solution to connect riders to drivers in
- Accessible by everyone, even those who cannot
use a smartphone.
- Allow creation of numerous flexible
transportation systems that can be interconnected.
- Move people and resources (deliveries).
- Modernized Fleet
- Shift to all electric fleet.
- Reduced fuel costs (approximate 1/3).
- Reduced service costs (greatly simplified
- Semi-autonomous drive.
- Markedly reduced adverse incidents.
- Reduced insurance costs.
- Reduced repair costs.
- Development of autonomous drive.
- Achieving full-autonomous drive in a
cost-effective manner will require industry and community cooperation.
- Will provide increased fleet mobility,
capability, and safety.
- Will not replace drivers (autonomous cars
cannot help you in and out of the car or help carry groceries into the house).
- Central charging and service center.
- Reduced operating costs via commercial vs.
residential power rates ($0.08/KWH vs $0.12/KWH).
- Efficient use of solar energy through
- Better ability to balance available grid power
supply (centralized battery-based energy storage, ala Tesla PowerWall).
- Replacing the current model of vehicle
- Current vehicles sit idle for >95% of their
- Cost of a vehicle ownership is at least 5 times
more expensive than needed.
- Cost of transportation is major component of
cost of living.
- Reducing cost of living improves the lives of
everyone in the community.
- Service costs persist due to material
degradation with time regardless of mileage.
- Insurance models are based on continuous use.
- Shared vehicle ownership models (ala ZipCar).
- Pay only for what you use.
- Markedly reduced parking requirements for
- Reduced living expenses through reduced parking
requirements with housing.
- Shared vehicle use models (ala Uber, Lyft).
- Combined private and for-hire use.
- Reduce the costs of transportation for all,
whether private or for-hire.
Most people have effective transportation options, but some
do not. We often focus on people who do
not have enough money to own a car, but there are many reasons that a person
may not have adequate transportation, and we need solutions for all of them. If we only focus on helping those who for
whatever reason are failing, we end up with a system that is unsustainable,
because it is not designed for the majority of the people in the community.
A sustainable transportation model is
one that is engineered to serve the needs of the entire community, not just a
Because the majority of people can own and operate cars and
this is the most desirable option available to them, it is the most highly
utilized system. The reason the majority
of people don’t use buses is simply that it is not an effective or attractive
option. If they don’t have to, they will
find a more appealing way. To create a
sustainable and effective transportation network, it must be more attractive
than the current standard (personal car ownership) to a large enough group of
people that the system is self-sufficient.
That means that it must be convenient, effective, clean, safe and
desirable. This is your target customer base, and by
building a sustainable system that is utilized preferentially by most in the
community, you can then leverage this system to address the needs of those in
the community that do not have adequate options.
Buses have long been an effective method of mass transit,
and in the right setting are efficient and useful. However, the effectiveness
of buses declines proportionally with the population density. A bus service is ineffective and inefficient
in rural areas where people and assets are spread over a large area. The bus service in Lynchburg Virginia is
inadequate for use as a commuter or regular transportation system. This is not the fault of the GLTC, it an
inherent limitation in the type of service that buses provide within the
In all rural areas, buses are expensive to operate and do
not provide the type of service needed.
In the Lynchburg area, they represent a significant financial burden
that poorly assists a very small percentage of the population. By creating a system that is both
advantageous and attractive to everyone in the area using modern vehicles
connected with modern technology, a more sustainable, effective, and usable
system can created that can then be leverage to address transportation needs
that are not being met.
1. I thought this
was about patient transportation?
If we want everyone to have transportation, then we have to
engineer a system for everyone. If we
focus only on one issue – like patients getting to doctor’s appointments – we
end up with a bunch of fragmented systems, none of which are robust. If we build a single sustainable system that
takes everyone into account – no matter who they are or what their needs – then
we can use it to solve these individual problems that continue to elude us.
2. If you are
trying to build a system for everyone, why are you suggesting we buy a small
fleet of very expensive cars (Tesla Model X SUVs)?
At $90,000, the Tesla Model X appears to be a frivolous
choice, but there are several factors that make this in an extremely valuable
investment, particularly as a core component for a rural transportation system:
- All electric drivetrain from the company with
the most experience with all electric drive. Electric is not only cheaper and cleaner to
operate, it has much lower service costs and intervals, particularly in high
- Tesla has reintroduced the unlimited
supercharging option with the Model X, which means the cars can be charged for
free for the lifetime of the vehicle.
The Model X has not been attractive to its current customer base, which
is individuals (partly because it looks like an egg). It is the perfect form factor for a city
3. There are other
all-electric vehicles, such as the Chevy Bolt, and they are much cheaper.
The Model X is a larger and more suited to a for-hire
transport vehicle. But the main
differentiator is autonomous drive.
- Tesla has the most experience with autonomous
drive. Autonomous drive is going to
be extremely valuable (an estimated 800 billion dollar annual industry). The current Tesla models allow for a
one-time charge of $7000 for a lifetime of autonomous drive. Even more than unlimited charging, this will
prove incredibly valuable in coming years (20 autonomous cars running 3 shifts
each assuming a reasonable driver salary is easily 3 million dollars
annually). In addition, their current
semi-autonomous drive when combined with excellent drivers will provide the
most capable combination available today.6
- Tesla vehicles have the most robust software
integration. This will allow integration
of innovative solutions like MoveUP directly into the operating system of the
car. For example, the car’s functions
and features can be modified depending on whether it is being used as a private
vehicle or a for-hire vehicle.
- We can help Tesla achieve autonomous drive. The biggest hurdle to fully-autonomous drive
is enabling the car to perform properly in every conceivable scenario. By implementing the vehicles in a smaller,
more controlled environment such as the City of Lynchburg and fostering
collaboration between the Tesla engineers and the city, we can address
limitations (difficult intersections, fixed positional markers or other
vehicle-environment communications, connected traffic signals, etc.) and
achieve working autonomy for our community with solutions that can be applied
in more complex environments.
The submitted plan includes a shift to the Tesla Model Y in
FY2022 when it becomes available. It is
less expensive ($60,000) though still more expensive than other options like
the Bolt. One hope is to have a core
fleet from a single manufacturer to reduce service and maintenance costs. However, we have the ability to go with
another vender if that becomes the more logical choice when considering all of
4. Still, these
are fancy cars, I am not sure this makes sense.
In our current world, personal transportation is the
preferred method of travel. If we want
to change that, it’s got to be attractive.
Tesla’s are trendy, especially the Model X with its “falcon” doors. Particularly in these early stages, image
will be extremely important.
5. In your budget,
you are pretty much giving these cars away.
I don’t understand – if you charge more for the cars, you can make
Remember that the goal is to solve a problem –
transportation – not capitalize on a need. Our bus system consumes at least 8 million
dollars annually and does not solve our problems. The goal of this project is to see if we can
build a more effective system that is financially self-sufficient. Because this is a prototype, we don’t have
data on how to do this. We don’t know
how many vehicles will be used, how many miles, or how much it will really
cost. We haven’t created the ideal
Because transportation is a need that is costing us
tremendously, we should reward the ones that provide our solution:
drivers. One of the fundamental issues
with current taxi drivers is that the pay is very low. If we want quality drivers – safe, friendly,
helpful – we will need to pay them for the important service they provide. This is not about making money on a vehicle
fleet, it is about providing a much needed service to our community. Unified Potential is not intending to become
a transportation company; we will simply provide the tools (vehicles,
connectivity) that enable people to create new and effective systems, and then
those systems can be implemented by others.
We aim to completely transform the image of the taxi.
6. What about
Developing the insurance product is an incredibly important
component of this demonstration project. There is no truly effective
insurance product that exists right now, primarily because thus far no system
like this has been operational. This
project will generate the actuarial data to build the lowest cost insurance
option that we can. That will create a new market opportunity, and will
also decrease the overall cost of everyone’s transportation.
For this project, we have budgeted standard commercial
insurance, as that is the only available option at this time. Using semi-autonomous drive and the best
drivers, our target is a zero incidents.
If we can build a less expensive insurance product, we will reduce our
expenses during the project, and we will also be able to apply that solution
anywhere in the future.
7. What about safety?
Safety has been a concern from day one, and we are assembling
every feature, including a few new ideas.
For example, we are not just implementing a comprehensive background
check process, we are creating a collaborative database such other entities for
which background checks are important can share this needed resource.
We are implementing state of the art security within the
vehicles, including high-definition in car cameras and continuous gps tracking
with emergency connectivity and comprehensive data collection. We will be able to effectively vet drivers
and provide suitable vehicles for transportation of children, a critical unmet
8. I thought this was
about an app, this “MoveUP” thing? 7,8
It is, and that may be the most powerful component of the
system. The goal of the DRPT for 2019
was to unify all transportation assets onto a single network. We are going to do that, and we are going to
demonstrate how powerful that is. For
example, we have user agreements with two important non-profits in Lynchburg:
Park View Mission and Meals on Wheels.
These are two of twenty-eight different non-profits which deliver
food and other goods to people in the city, and none of these entities
works together. By enabling each of them
to build and manage their own transportation networks as they see fit –
managing drivers and connecting them to riders or goods for delivery – they
will begin using a shared resource that is stronger for each of them than their
current fragmented individual networks.
All of these will now be working together, but without being asked to
work together. And that is just a small
example, because the real power will come when all of the assets throughout the
city are connected.
9. I just can’t get my
head around the Tesla thing. Why not use
Chrysler plug-in hybrid mini-vans that cost $40,000? We could wear out a
fleet of Chryslers while figuring out the autonomous thing with one Tesla.
As the (satisfied) owner of a Chrysler plug-in hybrid, I am in a
particularly good position to answer this. Hybrids represent the absolute
highest cost of service, as they have all of the complexity of an internal
combustion engine combined with a battery and electric motor and the complex
hybrid system that has to tie these 2 very different systems together.
Furthermore, the electric range is only 35 miles, after which the vehicle
becomes essentially a minivan, and though it gets very good mileage, it is
still burning gas at 25 mpg or less in the city.
We want to assemble all of the best components together into a
cohesive system with maximum benefit.
The exciting thing about this project is that the end result appears to
be science fiction and yet everything in this proposal exists today, and
everything we do here can be applied anywhere else.
About Unified Potential, Inc.
After twenty years as a practicing pathologist in Lynchburg
VA, I am transitioning out of “regular” medicine to pursue what can only be
described as a calling in search of collaborative solutions to age-old problems
rooted in the way we live together. The
success of healthcare systems depends on the health of our communities, and yet
providers have no tools with which to affect change in this most critical
environment. Transportation is a fundamental
need. The ultimate goal with this
project is to demonstrate a new and more effective way to approach problems
like transportation, and continue to apply successful techniques in a
broadening array of interconnected solutions that improve the lives of
everyone. Furthermore, what started as
one idealist has grown into a team of highly capable and similarly motivated
people who share this common goal.