Beyond Traffic: The Smart City Challenge

The following ideas are Commuter Cars' contribution to helping any city win the potential $50-million grant from (DOT $40-million, and Vulcan $10-million). More importantly it is a guide to solving traffic congestion. There are several different ways of implementing a simple and most cost-effective  way to combat, or possibly cure commuter freeway traffic congestion. However, the implementation of these ideas will also mitigate congestion on city streets and free up parking. Submissions to this challenge are due 2016-02-04.

Permission is hereby given to use any or all of this material for one's application to the DOT Beyond Traffic: Smart City Challenge, or for any other reason without any obligation.


Problem Statement:

There is not enough real estate available at a price that taxpayers are willing to pay, in order to accommodate the current 107-million single-occupant commuters of the 140-million workers, in full-sized cars without gradually approaching gridlock.


The title of this challenge: "Beyond Traffic" is the key

We have determined that the root of the problem of mobility in cities is the mistaken need to use vehicles that are 4 times larger than necessary for doing the jobs that need to be done for 90% of all trips. This is clearly demonstrated by the following graph that represents graphically, data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.




























Shorter vehicles like the Smart do little to solve traffic congestion if they still occupy and entire lane, as the total braking distance comprised of both reaction time and actual braking distance as a physical property of a car’s traction to the road, is needed in case of a mechanical failure or sudden emergency reaction by the car in front.

It is our contention that although adaptive cruise and connected car technology can help congestion to some degree, it is far from being able to eliminate a substantial amount of braking distance. This is based on several factors:

  1. Emotional. We  already have adaptive cruise. It works very well, however, people using adaptive cruise will not allow their car to be any closer to the car in front than allows them to feel comfortable. They won’t be comfortable tailgating the car in front, as they do not know what might happen to that car that is unpredictable. Even if all cars were connected, and the car at the front was able to signal to the cars behind that it has to make an emergency stop, or that a mechanical failure caused its wheels to lock up, the need for braking distance is not diminished by much. Nor will a driver or passenger feel comfortable being tailgated. This will create a major discomfort for people in the car being followed. This feeling is sometimes displayed in bumper stickers: “The closer you follow, the slower I go” “Not so close, we barely know each other.” etc.
  2. Some mechanical failures are inevitable. Will self-driving car manufacturers be willing to take responsibility for the occasional loss of life due to mechanical failures? Manufacturers assess risk vs. benefit. Will they be willing to risk multiple fatalities by having the cars tailgating one another when the excess lives could have been saved by having a proper braking distance.

This Challenge is about “Beyond Traffic” 2045. It is not conceivable that all cars will be connected and self driving by 2045. Just as we have 30-year-old cars on the highways today, it is very likely that we’ll have 30-year-old cars on the highways in 2045.

Even though connected and self-driving cars may not be the panacea that we hope for, all is not lost. The simple solution is in front of us. The width of the car is the limiting factor that can drastically reduce traffic congestion (120% increase in lane capacity) and increase parking capacity from 350% to 400% as long as the vehicles are no longer than 8.5 feet.

As roughly 90% of all cars in commuter traffic jams are occupied by a single occupant, we can safely say that they are using the wrong tool for the job. The fact that carpooling has little effect on getting commuters to increase occupancy, but they are willing to pay extra to get a car that qualifies for them to use the HOV lane as a single-occupant makes a strong statement:

Commuters need to go where they want to go and on their own schedule. They have voted with their pocket books and time. They put up with massive amounts of wasted time in traffic congestion just so that they can have the benefit of freedom.

The solution to this problem is supplying commuters with a transportation system that is equally convenient to using their cars, and gives point to point transportation on their own schedule or whim 24-7.

There are several ways to implement this, but first does a car exist that can fit comfortably and safely in half of a lane? Commuter Cars Corp. has developed a car that meets all of the needs to increase freeway lane capacity from the current 2,000 Vehicles Per Hour (VPH) per lane to an astounding 4,400 VHP per lane as NCV (Narrow Commuter Vehicle) and motorcycle occupancy reach 100%. This is the finding of a CalTrans funded study by UC Berkeley and Booz-Allen-Hamilton. The full reports are listed under the heading "Complete Studies" at

In order to implement a revolutionary system, it is important to consider that the existing infrastructure is expensive and difficult to modify. For example, the idea of narrower lanes has been brought up in reference to this competition.  As cars and trucks currently use the same lanes, it is true that lanes are wider than necessary for the average car.  The problem is that even if a 4-lane freeway were changed to allow 2 lanes for trucks and 2 for cars, there will be little benefit of only gaining 4 feet if two lanes are reduced from 12-ft to 10-ft. In urban areas many times the freeways are reduced to 10-ft wide which reduces a truck’s clearance in a lane from 16-in on each side to 4-in on each side. Typically, speed limits are then reduced to 55 mph. If a Toyota Camry at exactly 72-in wide only had 4-in of clearance, then a lane width of 80 inches would be possible, however,  a Dodge Ram pickup would be excluded as it’s 103-in from mirror to mirror. All of this complication and expense could be avoided with NCVs that are 40-wide or less. The Tango, for example, is 39” wide, and yet has ½-in more room from the center of the steering wheel to the inside door panel than a Subaru Outback Wagon, and only 1/2-in less than the same dimension on a Dodge Ram 2500 pickup.

Without any change in infrastructure, an NCV limited to 40-inches wide can fit in a half lane with the same or more clearance that a truck has in a full lane, whether 12-ft standard or 10-ft urban freeway. In fact, if self-driving technology can produce the accuracy needed, 3 NCVs could fit in a single standard 12-ft lane leaving 8-in of clearance between them.

Based on the fact that unless people move closer to work, or choose to use a far-less convenient way to get there, the infrastructure can't handle the volume properly.

Unless there is a way found to increase the size of infrastructure to accommodate the present and future needs of these 107-million workers, a Narrow Commuter Vehicle is the only answer. In other words unless new infrastructure can be increased at 1/10 the current cost, and built in 1/10th the time, there is no competition for the Narrow Commuter Vehicle (NCV). Motorcycles are the only other answer, but 107-million workers have spoken, stating by their actions that they'd rather drive a car in traffic than take public transit (only (7-million) or ride motorcycles, 324,000, (0.2% of workers) or bicycles which won't help freeway traffic,  (0.6% of US Workers)

The only other enclosed NCV in existence is the Toyota iRoad. It is not freeway capable. It is is limited to 28 mph in Europe and 37 mph in Japan. It is classified as a motorcycle. It is missing most of the safety aspects of the Tango, won't solve freeway traffic, and can't do emergency maneuvers quickly (like a bike, it must countersteer first to keep from tipping over).

Nissan and Renault have single-person-wide vehicles that also rely on leaning, however, they are too wide to double lane capacity. It seems obvious that the major manufactures are afraid to add weight in order to create stability, as none have approached us about using our patented ballasted stabilization. To have a car that is 1/4 the size of a mid size sedan, but weighs as much as one, is counterintuitive to the whole auto design world. They are always fighting to save weight to gain efficiency. Granted lighter is more efficient, but at what cost. People feel safer in heavier cars, hence many buy SUVs simply as they feel safer on the freeway among other SUVs. This is a false sense of security, as although their weight is a plus in safety, it is overshadowed by the inability to maneuver quickly to avoid accidents. The Tango, being pure electric is so many time more efficient that any gasoline or diesel car of its weight, that the focus should be more on accident avoidance. As for longevity of the infrastructure because of weight, consider than the NCV will be straddling the ruts created by standard cars and trucks therefore using new road surface.



We propose that there are several solutions for implementation to coax commuters into NCVs.

  1. (1)Education: Overcoming the obvious objections
    1. People seeing a Tango will instinctively think that because it is small it will be unsafe in a crash. (See )
    2. Seeing such a narrow vehicle will cause people to instinctively think that it will tip over. (See )
    3. Being purely electric, people will wonder if it will have the range that they need, or worry about charging opportunity.
      1. If owned or rented longer term, charging is done at night, and it is extremely rare that charging is needed during the day, much like cell phone usage
      2. If used in a carshare program, use the Car2Go model for Austin Texas. A car may be dropped off in any legal space. If there is a meter, no need to feed the meter. This is an incentive to use shared cars instead of one’s own, as it avoids the hassle of parking, and encourages using shared vehicles. As the Tango is electric, if the car is under 20% State Of Charge (SOC), then the car must be dropped off at a charging station and plugged in. Solar carports the size of a single parallel parking space can accommodate and charge 4 Tangos at a time. When a person finds the nearest Tango on their smart phone, the SOC will be displayed so that they will know if they will have to return to a charge station or simply drop it off in any legal space within the car share zone.
  2. Creating desire in commuters to drive a standard or ride a self-driving NCV
    1. Show why it’s more convenient
      1. Easier to find parking, as will fit in ¼ of a parallel parking space
      2. Easier to get through traffic, as it can fit through spaces like a motorbike and  lanesplit where legal, as it is in California
    2. Show why it’s faster
      1. Quickly find parking spaces where no other car can fit
      2. Get through traffic faster than any other car.
    3. (c)Show why it’s safer
      1. Avoids accidents better than any car in history
      2. Achieved fastest speed recorded by Consumer Reports through their Emergency Lane Change Maneuver (Moose Test).
      3. Superior impact protection designed after FIA racecar crash protection standards(iv) Reacts immediately to input, unlike a motorbike that must first countersteer
    4. Show why it’s the environmentally “cool” way to get to work and shopping.
      1. Not only showing a small carbon footprint, but also a small physical footprint, leaving more space for other drivers and car parking spaces.
      2. Quick and exciting to drive.
      3. People see it as the future and young children and adults alike smile and appreciate the way the future is shaping up when the see it.
    5. Show why there is no need to give up their full-sized car, but just use it less
      1. One doesn’t throw away their sledge hammer when buying a claw hammer which they plan to use for 90% of their work
      2. As long as the Tango is the right tool for the job at hand, the large car will stay in the garage, however, when the need arises to carry more passengers than one, or more items than fit in the 10 cu ft cargo space, then the full-sized car or SUV can be utilized.
    6. Show how it costs less than using their personal car, even though they don’t get rid of their car. Also compares favorably with public transit cost.
      1. In the beginning it may need to be subsidized somewhat, however, as there is more adoption, then there will be more benefit. As that happens, people will be willing to pay more to get the Tango advantage.
      2. If purchasing a Tango, commuters will find that the electricity to charge it and that amortization on the battery combined will be cheaper than using gasoline.
      3. Batteries for purchased or long-term-rented Tangos can be sized appropriately to their typical usage or commute. For example a short-distance commuter may be able to use a 60-mile range for $50 a month while 3 other battery sizes, of 120, 180, and 240 miles of range are possible increasing the monthly battery rent to $100, $150, and $200 respectively. If the customer prefers, for a purchased Tango, the battery could be purchased. The benefit of renting the battery is that it keeps the battery manufacturer responsible for the longevity and capacity/range, as well as keeping it competitive between supplying battery manufacturers.
    7. Make it easy for commuters to try using without a financial commitment
    8. Car share program similar to Car2Go.
    9. Rentals at airports train stations, and other transit hubs
    10. Designate groups of 4 Tango spaces under carports with solar charging. These would be the recommended charging spaces, but not required unless the car is returned with under 20% range. This is the model used by Austin for Car2Go.
  3. Adjust antiquated laws regarding parking and lane use.
    1. Give exact same rights as motorcycles for parking perpendicular to the curb as long as 8-ft 6-in maximum length
    2. Give exact same rights as motorcycles where lanesplitting is legal, as the Tango is the same width as a typical police or CHP motorbike and can react quicker to an emergency than a bike as it doesn’t have to countersteer.
    3. Federally mandate that NCVs less than 40-in wide can use HOV lane just as motorcycles do, without needing special stickers issued by state agencies.
    4. Mandate that state or local parking authorities consider NCVs as motorcycles in regard to parking enforcement. The law that requires NCVs to be parked parallel to the curb is antiquated with the creation of the NCV, and wastes valuable space that could increase parking capacity by up to 400%.
    5. Mandate that where motorcycle parking is available, that NCVs can use the space legally as long as less than 40-in wide, and 8-ft 6-in long.
    6. (f) Give federal credit to those purchasing NCVs, in addition to the EV credit, as they are conserving taxpayer paid-for space, and in fact are using new road surface as they straddle the ruts created by other vehicles when driving at the left or right side of the lane. This also increases safety as they are more visible to other drivers and have an escape route between cars in case of an emergency. This is also the reason why the increase in lane capacity shown in studies is more than simply doubling. This is due to the fact that because of the escape route available to NCVs, they can travel more comfortably closer to the car in front.


Of course, driving NCVs would work in separate lanes like protected bicycle and/or bus rapid transit lanes as well.


Please see IBM Smart City Challenge video on narrow cars solving congestion:


It has been noted in cities throughout the country that bicycle lanes are also poorly allocated real estate, at least for solving traffic congestion, although safety for bicyclers has been improved which, of course, is of the highest importance, however, it is not solving congestion, and in fact has created more congestion for cars. This is like punitive damages for the privilege of driving a car, which is simply the most convenient way for most to travel.

We suggest that with connected technology, Tangos could use the bike lane safely by having their speed automatically limited to 15 mph when in that lane. At least the long lines of cars that are stuck in traffic as they are in Palo Alto, could be alleviated. We must consider that punishing drivers is not helping our pollution, greenhouse gases, or fuel usage, and hardly makes a dent in getting car drivers to ride bicycles instead.

Even before connected technology is implemented, allowing motorcycles and NCVs in the bicycle lanes would be a huge incentive for solving traffic congestion and all of the other associated problems. The speed limit in bike lanes could be limited to 15 or 20 mph and police with radar could give citations to any who didn’t obey the bike lane speed limit.

At some point it is also conceivable that freeway lanes could be striped down the middle, creating two lanes by simply adding paint, and no other requirement for changing infrastructure.


Demonstration Project

As the Tango T600 which is used to show the capability of an NCV, is currently built as a kit car, full FMVSS certification will be required for the demonstration project. Depending on other investors or potential orders from individuals, fleets, car share companies, government entities, or transit authorities, the volume and price for the Tangos in the demonstration program will vary greatly.

For the purpose of this proposal, we will use a worst-case scenario, meaning that our program will be responsible for the entire cost of producing these cars. 100 cars can be produced for $21-million. That will cover all engineering, certification and manufacturing of these Tangos.

With the expected success of the program however, volume increase will drastically reduce the price per vehicle form the 100 quantity at $210k each to $44k each at 5,000 units, $29k at 15,000 units, or $20k at 100,000 units. The 100,000 unit prices is basically $10k for the vehicle and $10k for a battery that yields a 120-mile range. A 60-mile range would be $15,000, and a 240-mile range would be $30,000 at the 100k per annum volume.

For the demonstration, 100 Tangos would be used for a car share program which could be managed by the transit authority, using the Car2Go model, however, with the ability to give much longer-term rentals for those commuters who desire to use it as a personal car.

As it is not the place of a transit authority to compete with private enterprise, car share companies will be invited to compete for the continued operation of the program, and they will negotiate with the city for parking arrangements, solar charge stations, etc.

Specific goals of the Smart City Challenge as outlined on page 11 of the Notice of Funding opportunity Number DTFH6116RA00002

  1. 1) Identify transportation challenges and needs of the citizen and business community, and show how we can address issues in safety, mobility, and climate change.
    1. The transportation challenges for citizens and business are simply that there are too many cars and too little space. The car and truck are the preferred mode of transportation for 90% of all travel, hence that will be our focus. The car and truck users have voted with their pocket books as to what they need in terms of transportation—namely point-to-point with a vehicle that has the needed capacity or more, than the trip requires.
    2. We will address this primarily by supplying an option that has never existed in the past—namely a personal vehicle that has the footprint of a motorcycle, but with safety far surpassing the standard automobile.
    3. Safety is addressed by using these vehicles which are roughly half the width of typical cars, hence half the chance of being in an accident, coupled with superior reaction time and superior impact protection. Connected and self driving technology added to the Tangos will certainly take them to an unprecedented level of safety.
    4. Mobility will be increased by more than double, as the Tangos will more than double lane capacity and quadruple parking capacity.
    5. Climate change/emissions will be addresses by using solar charging stations to the extent possible, in addition to the fact that pure electric cars, even when charged by the grid are far more efficient, hence less polluting than gasoline-powered cars.
  2. We believe that the most important technology for solving transportation challenges is to supply the market with the proper sized tool for the job of commuting and shopping for most trips. The strategy for the introduction is to incentivize and make it more convenient for commuters to use the small-footprint NCVs instead of hauling around a lot of empty space and seats, which are the real cause of traffic congestion.
    1. Technology: Narrow Commuter Vehicles (NCV) adapted as technology is available to have them communicate with each other, other cars, and with individuals through smart phone applications.
    2. Strategy: Is to make it easier for commuters to use the NCVs than to use their own cars. This is done initially by making it cheaper, but also more convenient, faster, safer, and more fun to drive or ride.
    3. Applications: Provide the Tangos primarily for commuters as that is the cause of most traffic congestions, but also encourage the use of Tangos for fist response medical allowing faster arrival with critical equipment, and for police to use as they are much safer, but offer the same mobility as motorcycles with climate-controlled safe vehicles that give protection from the weather. Encouraging the use of Tangos for delivery vehicles means being less obtrusive to traffic if double parked, but better than that, fits quickly in between cars by parking perpendicularly for quick pickups and deliveries.
    4. Institutional arrangements: include using Tangos for first and last mile for public transit authorities, fleet use for large employers to incentivize employees, giving free charging at work, preferably from solar carports as provided by Google, as well as college campuses.
    5. A study in Belgium showed that moving 25% of commuters to motorcycles would completely eliminate traffic congestion. The same would apply for moving commuters to Tangos, which would be a lot easier to accomplish, considering that motorcycles are dangerous and unprotected from the elements, not to mention lacking of secured carrying capacity.


Technology Elements:

  1. Urban Automation:
    1. Currently 2 Tangos can fit in a single lane side by side or staggered producing a 120% increase in lane capacity from 2,000 VPH to 4,400 VPH. With VTV technology and precise steering, we believe that 3 Tangos can be fit in a single lane, more than tripling the usefulness of existing infrastructure.
  2. Connected Vehicles:
    1. The ability for Tangos to communicate with each other, and other cars will further increase lane capacity.
    2. Congestion caused by self-driving side-by-side-seated cars will be mitigated by Self-driving NCVs.
    3. 76.9% of all workers in the US choose to be in a vehicle by themselves for their travel to work. This is not likely to change by much with the addition of self-driving technology.
  3. Intelligent Sensor-based Infrastructure
    1. The Tango design will use sensor-based data to communicate with infrastructure and other cars.
  4. Urban Analytics
    1. The Tango, especially if rented by the minute will feed back vast information about traffic flow, charging infrastructure needs, and other useful data.
  5. User-Focused Mobility Services and Choices
    1. The Tango is designed with traffic mitigation in mind. It is commuter focused to give the NCV choice to each commuter to improve commute times, safety, convenience, and comfort significantly.
  6. Urban Delivery and Logistics
    1. In California, Tangos are currently demonstrating the ability to transport people and goods significantly faster than standard-cars given lanesplitting and parking capabilities
  7. Strategic Business Models and Partnering Opportunities
    1. Commuter Cars will partner with transit authorities, OEMs, and investors to mitigate traffic congestion in the fastest way possible.
  8. Smart Grid, Roadway Electrification, and Electric Vehicles
    1. The Tango is 100% electric which fulfills Vulcan's electric qualifier for $10M portion of prize.
    2. A single parallel parking spot can house 4 Tangos and be covered by a solar carport roof to charge them while parked.
    3. During low shared NCV usage during the day, Tangos can feed energy back to the grid in order to help with peak loads. The solar charge carports for Tangos can also feed the grid when not needed to charge Tangos.
  9. Connected, Involved Citizens
    1. Giving citizens new more-efficient transport mode choices gives them point of pride via faster commute and more time for family, friends, teachers, students, and interests
  10. Architecture and Standards
    1. Booz-Allen-Hamilton / UC Berkely studies show an increase of parking for NCVs by 350% by re-striping existing parking areas. See Complete Studies at
    2. Tango design allows parking availability to expand dramatically with existing architecture.
    3. Tango design allows commuters and drivers with disabilities to drive in places not allowed before which could significantly improve access to health service providers.
    4. New standards can be created to allow less parking space allocation per dwelling unit, maximizing space available. Giving away free Tangos could be far less expensive to real estate developers than allocating 3 to 4 times the necessary space for parking and currently required.
  11. Low-Cost, Efficient, Secure, and Resilient Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
    1. Tango design will use low cost efficient, secure, and resilient information and communications technology.
  12. Smart Land Use
    1. Building, leasing, and selling Tangos gives cities an option to more than double amount of land use on existing streets and bridges while at the same time dramatically improving traffic congestion
    2. City real estate is a limited commodity. Let's use it more efficiently, rather than squander it with vehicles that are 4 times too big for the jobs being done 90% of the time.



Beyond Traffic: The Smart City Challenge

The title really says it all.

As long as 107-million SINGLE-OCCUPANT commuters (out of 140-million workers in the US) continue to travel to work in  5-passenger cars, taking up an entire lane, traffic congestion will not be mitigated, whether self-driving or not.

The Tango will mitigate traffic congestion and improve air quality whether self-driving or not. It will also mitigate parking scarcity.

A little common sense is all that’s required to understand the simple fact that we can’t have 5-passenger cars transporting single occupants as a general rule.

Whether the government has to rent these Tangos or whether people buy them, there is no other affordable solution to traffic or parking congestion. Self-driving is so exciting to talk about, but it doesn’t solve the space problem.

A little common sense, working with facts from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, and a good communication of both, should produce the winner to the DOT Smart City Challenge.








“The significant problems we face cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”

“The formulation of the problem is often more essential than its solution, which may be

merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill.”

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5

minutes thinking about solutions.”

― Albert Einstein


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