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rdpulfer

Reading Excuses rdpulfer City Bones 3700 words

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Hello all,
 
This is a submission for a contest. The theme is making cities more cleaner and climate-friendly, so I went to self-driving cars. What I'm interested in:
 
1) Does the story work? Why or why not?
 
2) Does the story work for the theme? Why or why not?
 
3) Anything else you feel like pointing out.
 
Thanks a lot!
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- First paragraph felt a little clunky, ending with overt exposition, which didn't really capture me.

- Towards the end of the second paragraph and into the 3rd i finally feel pulled in. I enjoy A's mind and how she sees the city, really good. I feel like I've heard the saying, "forest of steel and concrete." to describe a city, but it's still a pretty way of describing it, and I particularly liked the mysterious jungle phrase at the end.

- So, electric cars shift? First gear?? I'm falling out of your futuristic fantasy. I'm not a huge EV guru or anything, but even i know for a fact that full EV's don't actually need to shift or even have gears, they are unnecessary mechanical pieces. If you're writing this for a contest where the judges may know their EV tech, even slightly, this may be a point you want to shift around. Make it about the axel or, with tesla's each wheel has its own motor, perhaps one of the motors is going out?

- Wouldn't her car alert her via google map or some other cloud based traffic monitoring system of the rare traffic jam she's experiencing? If this is the future, surely being connected to a cloud traffic monitoring system would be standard. I say that only because i can already download it on my smartphone.

- So, what A is saying on p4 is accurate, BUT, I feel like the incentive to drive manually at high speeds was overlooked. It's not just that capping the speeds reduces the accidents, but it also takes away incentive to drive manually for many manual drivers. And if you can go a step further and limit their speed based on traveling speed of the road they're traveling on it may have even more impact. Just seems like an err in logic is all.

- moving on i really enjoy A's inner dialogue lol.

- p9, what about statistics on accidents, lives saved, impact to emergency personnel, etc? I know it's a short so you can't do or say everything, but again this seems like an obvious argument to counter 'money' as a moral imperative to change.

- It ended well. I really enjoyed A's banter with her dad and the problem they were trying to solve seemed absolutely realistic. 

Well done :)
 



 

Edited by TKWade
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Thoughts As I Go: Pg.1 - The intro paragraph is a bit much exposition. Also, street advertisements would be useless against self-driving cars. The only time I’d ever look out the window is scenery, otherwise I’d be reading a book, or something.

Pg. 2 - Eh. Gridlock. I’ve seen schematics for purely self-driving highways, and they completely eliminate gridlock. I mean, they have plans for eight way intersections with no traffic lights. It’s mind-blowing.

Pg. 4 – What happened to Walmart?

Pg. 6 – I’m running a blank on why A can’t get access to the data. If she works for a car company, they should be able to get the data. If, for some reason, the car company isn’t allowed to use the data, what she’s doing is highly illegal.

Pg. 8 – The politics here are a bit choppy, to say the least. The toll road problem is easily fixable (i.e., don’t program toll-less routes, or put out more tolls.) The real problem is a popularity dip when you take people’s cars away from them.

Pg. 12 – Ah. What do cars run on, if not fuel? Electricity from nuclear plants, presumably. Water is also an option, though I’ve never seen a realistic model for hydrogen-powered cars.

Pg. 14 – I’m not sure how or why this would solve a gridlock problem. Gridlock (pure gridlock, anyway, discounting accidents or road blocking) happens because there are too many cars trying to get from point A to point B.  Self-driving cars avoid that because they can drive faster than humans, and can also connect to a central grid which uses massive algorithms to avoid too many cars in the same space. The road-reading tire trick would avoid accidents and stop erratic human drivers who are mucking around with the system. This would be a solution if gridlock was caused by irrational human driving patterns (like behaving illegally, etc.) which you might have meant, but I didn’t get the foresight for it.

 

Overall, I really enjoyed this. Despite the fact that my mountain of criticism seems to the contrary, I’m only criticizing the physical execution (because I’m a nerd when it comes to programming of any kind). Everything else is great. The character depth itself works well for the story, A’s relationship with her father serves as a good catalyst, they both come across as real characters with depth. I particularly like how the stepmother doesn’t show up, because the dynamic works perfectly as-is, and another piece would only complicate it unnecessarily.

The story doesn’t work much for the theme of 'cleaner and climate friendly' as-is. There are things you could empathize a bit more to make it workable. Aside from using alternative to gas (which you shoehorned in), you could mention that there are less cars overall on the roads (because travel is faster), less total travel time, so less energy consumed. You could even throw in a line about how the city plans to move the road system underground if gridlock becomes an absolute zero, and the entire surface could be used for parks.

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First to answer your questions

 

Does the story work: unfortunately, for me, not at the moment. There's a good story in here! However, it's a very tech focused story, and that's where it runs into problems. There are too many issues with the tech as described and they prevent me from getting into the story. I like A, and I definitely like her dad, but the plot does not work for me because it is so technology focused, and the tech doesn't work, which in turn makes the actions not seem reasonable or believable. 

 

Does it work for the theme: Yes and no? Yes in that the subject matter does help clean up a city, though not to the extent of say, facilitating pedestrian methods of travel or public transport; no in that much of what's described is not a particularly believable or effective method of obtaining the results the characters desire. This seems less like a story about electric cars and more like a story about city planning. City planning and logistics are super important ways to improve conditions and make the city more eco-friendly! So, yes!  However, the stated focus is supposed to be electric cars... so, no...? Yes in that electric cars are good... but no in that the improvements they provide are just told to us. The results don't really impact the main characters, so it's not really focused on the contest theme... 

 

And now to ramble

 

I agree with most of the technology issues @aeromancer and @TKWade pointed out.  Day-after-tomorrow type stories are difficult because too much on one side or the other and they end up breaking suspension of disbelief.  I feel like this story falls on the not-enough-future side of the issue. Current technology already does almost all of what you describe (and what isn't there now is super close to happening). Tires/cars that sense and adjust to roadway conditions, map apps that route around traffic in near-real time, speed controls in partially-automated cars that human users can't bypass, even the data collection aspects -- all these things are existing technology right now. 

Then there's the datacubes. What A and her dad are doing is dubiously legal at best -- and theft, privacy invasion, or huge breach of contract at worst (or all three, and probably some more).  It's mostly pointless to boot. Anonymized data basically isn't, and only really becomes useful in the aggregate and at ridiculously large scale ("big data"). Plus I'm really skeptical any kind of company would let expended datacubes out of their possession -- EVER. Heck in a case that was just decided recently, Lexmark (the printer ink people) took a patent case to the SCotUS over someone using their expended printer cartridges -- things consumers had already purchased, the company'd already identified as trash and had no use for.  

So where does the data come from then? As a city planner/programmer, A should have access to the city's metrics, which would likely include traffic flow patterns in addition to various accident-related stats (again, this is doable with just existing tech). Someone looking to review the use of manual override and see if it corresponds to any difference in traffic patterns would likely have her company purchase datasets or databases from another vendor. This is, to reiterate, something that happens right now today, and there's a lot less paperwork involved that you'd think, especially if the data supplier has gone through the motions of stripping publicly identifiable info out of it.  I guess this is a long-winded way of  saying that for the way the story's set up, I just don't see much purpose in looking at individual drivers like she does, or coming to the conclusions she does. 
 

Otherwise, as I said, the premise is good, the main characters are solid, and the dialogue is strong. With a bit of research to straighten out the tech bits, you've got a pretty good story!

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The story works. I think that you introduce the problem early and you don't overcomplicate the story by focusing too much on the science of your world. You also don't add a whole cast of characters when you don't need to. Part of it working for me though depends very heavily on me knowing what the purpose of this piece is. For that reason, I feel like 1 and 2 are really just the same question.

 

You stick to the theme almost too well. I remember looking for critique points that I might give for this review and thinking that her job almost had to be working with cars or traffic in some way. Like, if it was not going to be about self-driving cars from the stand point of someone who had to work with the technology, your whole intro would have read wrong. That made me think that the pacing was good, because just as I'm thinking of a question I find it being answered in the text.

 

The biggest weakness I see is that nothing exciting happens. This reads like a statement of fairly boring facts. I don't see a problem with your ratio of spoken dialogue verses description, prose, or even pacing. I think the problem is resolved in a believable and fair manner. I just don't care about the problem. Traffic jams suck, and while the world doesn't have to be about to end, I need something more engaging then our protagonist might lose her job. Heck, she certainly doesn't seem overly concerned about the loss herself.

 

This isn't really my wheelhouse. The technology seems barely advanced enough to hint at science fiction and I don’t have mjuch of experience with stories written so close to our actual reality. Please take that into consideration. I also don't enjoy reading many things shorter than a novella so that needs to be noted as well. That being said, good job and I hope this was helpful.

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1) Does the story work? As a try/fail cycle, yes. It does get a little repetitive, as A just goes home to Dad and thus gets the next idea. I like A as a character, and the moments between her and her father are well written.
However, I agree with a lot of what the others have said on the near-future aspect, especially the information gathering. As a city planner, A. would have access to lots of driver's data. However, unless she worked for a car company, she would not be able to push an update to the cars. She could push updates to the traffic regulation system, and potentially change what information the cars read, but not what they did with it.

Also, looking at individual drivers is a sample size of 1, which doesn't tell you much. You would need the data cubes from 10k+ drivers (or some sizable fraction of actual traffic flow) to see all the patterns well enough to determine where to make corrections in the programming.
I'm also bothered by the potholes, for some reason. I'm not surprised money would go to advertizing, but if the cars are reading something from the road, potholes could potentially cause errors.
 
2) Does the story work for the theme? Yes? It's about making cities more efficient, and thus using less resources, but does it make the city more climate friendly? Not sure.

Notes while reading:
pg 2: "The car shuddered as it fell into first gear."
--Just from a futuristic/wrolbuilding aspect, the car is likely to have a CVT (continuously variable transmission) and thus no discernible gear changes.

pg 4: "What’s a walmart?"
--eh, Walmart will probalby be around for a while.

pg 8: "“Understandable. New technology can take some adjustment,” Mickey said."
--Where'd the switch to a nickname come from?

pg 8: "not sure I could get it passed city council"
--past

pg 11: good try/fail cycles, although you could pad them a little. There's a definite pattern of go to Dad's house, he does X that makes A come up with a new plan.

pg 13: "Vinyl records were well out of fashion by the time she was a teenager"
--maybe before she was born? They were going out of fashion when I was a teenager, and I assume this is set in the future.

 

I enjoyed reading the story, and I think this is some of your best writing. The problems mainly stem from the technical aspect, which is the hardest part to get right in a near-future story.

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Thanks for all the help so far. I've been revising the story based on the feedback from @TKWade and @aeromancer so far (as well the some bits with overlap with @industrialistDragon

I kinda had a feeling I'd have to revise the bit about the data cubes. Those were mainly just a means to an end to get her to interact with her father. But really anything can go in that space, so I just need to find something that fits with his mechanic skills more.

I'm also working on explaining the problem and the solution a bit more. I did want to add that, according to some of my research, driving habits - like timidity and aggression - is actually responsible for a lot of the traffic jams, and there is doubt self-driving cars can completely eliminate the congestion.

Thanks for the feedback again. I'm steadily working through everyone's suggestions - and I really appreciate all the help.

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35 minutes ago, rdpulfer said:

I just need to find something that fits with his mechanic skills more

Ooo, so here's a thing! Even today, electric cars are as much computer as they are mechanical device, so someone who works on these vehicles (especially future versions of them) would be just as much programmer or systems/data analyst as they were grease monkey. It's one of the issues traditional mechanics and DIY-ers today are facing when they try to repair their computer-controlled machines: companies install proprietary software on things like cars and farm equipment, then prevent the users from effecting any repairs by withholding the diagnostic tools necessary to fix the problems! The farmers and drivers are then forced to go to the licensed dealers/mechanics and pay a premium for simple fixes they used to do themselves. 

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3 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

Ooo, so here's a thing! Even today, electric cars are as much computer as they are mechanical device, so someone who works on these vehicles (especially future versions of them) would be just as much programmer or systems/data analyst as they were grease monkey. It's one of the issues traditional mechanics and DIY-ers today are facing when they try to repair their computer-controlled machines: companies install proprietary software on things like cars and farm equipment, then prevent the users from effecting any repairs by withholding the diagnostic tools necessary to fix the problems! The farmers and drivers are then forced to go to the licensed dealers/mechanics and pay a premium for simple fixes they used to do themselves. 

Thanks @industrialistDragon

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So, eh, brace yourself...

Ha-ha, well now. I am a transport planner by profession and have been for 30 years, so I should know all about this, right? Ahem, well not really in the area that I work in, but I should be able to at least make educated comments, right, right? We’ll see…

  • The opening is a bit dry. If this is just going to be about autonomous vehicles (this is the phrase I have heard most often), then it’s going to sound a bit like a lecture, or an essay. I hope it has character and plot. If so, I'd prefer to get those first.
  • Does she actually need a console at all? The answer is, that depends. I'm interested in how much research you did on the existing technology. There is an industry-accepted scale of driving autonomy which is based on vary (decreasing) degrees of human intervention or oversight being required. The SAE scale ranges from ‘Level 0’ (no driving autonomy, so basically what we have at the moment with cruise control) to Level 1 (driver assistance, which I think includes self-parking, which we have now), up to Level 5 (full automation). I won’t prattle on – need to read and see what you’ve got in here!).
  • she’d be one day be programming a city
  • Still kind of dry. I still want plot, character and mystery/adventure/something exciting from stories that I read.
  • dad still lived in the suburban home
  • Or Dad’s new wife moved in” – okay some family drama at least.
  • Why does the car drop into first anyway? Does it not have some kind of ‘modern’ continuous transmission for reasons of passenger comfort?
  • her own car completely shrugged to a halt” – awkward phrasing. To me, it’s more dramatic if it shrugs to a complete halt.
  • good old- fashioned Chicago rush hour traffic jam” – there’s some confusion here. You say jams are rare, and that’s reasonable with autonomous vehicles, up to a point. However, you then show that she’s familiar with the jams, and that they seem to be regular, because things never change. The reality is that autonomous vehicles will most likely either be limited to certain geographical areas (i.e. no conventional cars allowed) or will need to be able to cope completely with a phased implementation over time, and therefore mixing with regular vehicles, in the way that electric vehicles (PEV and PHEV) are now and have been in recent years. The greatest challenge to AVs is their interaction with existing roads and existing vehicles. Personally, in terms of reactions, judgement, knowledge and perception, I do not think there can ever be an AV that is as good as a human driver, but whatever the case, the key is AI.
  • I like that you recognise that the interaction between AI and manual drivers is a source of problems. The existence of jams due to accidents is reasonable, but I would expect that smart roads would be in place to prevent such things happening (the ‘mainframe’ seems a rather archaic term to use, not least because it’s software that does all the hard work, the computer’s just a big adding machine).
  • Also, I’m surprised there are still this number of vehicles on the road. The number of years (decades) it will (could) take to get to full AVs is such that I would expect mass transit systems to be a good deal more sophisticated, with expanded networks to take the load of highways. Smart highways themselves however can be expected to make much more effective use of the space they have, such as with high-occupancy vehicles lanes. This could be in the form of mass transit buses, but also personalised transport vehicles carrying multiple passengers. Smart highways will be able to detect when multiple persons are present, and might also close lanes to single occupancy vehicles, with the intention of forcing lone drivers to change modes or car pool.
  • I would doubt very much that vehicles would be permitted to travel at 60mph in an urban area in the future, and I include urban freeways, unless under automated control. Although, traffic capacity increases with speed, especially if reduced vehicle separation can be achieved in the future because of AVs. Even now, smart motorways in the UK, or just plain old matrix signs on existing motorways have or will be used to regulate vehicle speeds, reducing speed limits during peaks times to reduce accident risk and improve flow.
  • Less speed, less fewer chances of…
  • just as dangerous behind a Walmart shopping cart as they are behind the wheel” – but clearly not true because of the relative weight (mass) of the vehicles being driver.
  • Rapid lane changes and cutting someone off can produce just as many accidents” – nope, far, far more. Speed affects the severity of a collision (Have you seen the movie Hot Fuzz? They’re not called accidents anymore, but collisions), but the collision happens because someone else changes their direction of travel or their position. This doesn’t mean it’s the someone else’s fault, but for speed to be the cause of a vehicle-vehicle collision, someone would need to drive straight into someone else. That does happen of course, but because the speed isn’t paying attention to what’s happening in front. So again, it’s not really speed that causes the collision.
  • most gridlock is caused by irregular breaking braking and acceleration anyway” – meh. That certainly is the main symptom, but the cause, usually, is simply the capacity of the road or junction being exceeded. the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) defined a series of Levels of Service (LoS) ranging from A to F, where A represents free flow and F represents total flow breakdown. If you think about it, why is the person at the front braking? :)
  • Search and replace ‘braking’ for ‘breaking’.
  • ‘Beau’ is use to describe a male admirer. Female would be ‘belle’, presumably.
  • “more spotless than she had ever saw seen it”, I think, and the same for the next instance.
  • probably had something to do with the pizza she was carrying” – lol. Works for me!
  • I don’t think she can turn away a pizza she brought, more like one that was offered to here by someone else.
  • “she opened hoped the box” – also, why does she need more than one plate?
  • He asks her how work is twice.
  • Big issues: (1) I cannot be convinced that, at the level of tech we’re talking about, individual data is held on individual solid pieces of stuff for each driver. They wouldn’t even do this now, or ten years ago. This all would be centralised collected by the vehicle manufacturers, or the highway authority, or at a national government level. (2) Data protection. How in the heck does some retired bloke end up with a bunch of personal data in his garage!! Now way, that has to be totally illegal. The current data protection laws in the UK would not permit this. I don’t know what the US is like. Hmm, okay, I see you’ve explained this. I'm still a bit dubious that this is not illegal practice for him to retain the cubes. (3) This is the same as (1), just the existence of these cubes at all, environmentally, cost-wise, makes no sense to me. It feels like VHS.
  • Gridlock is not a cause, it’s a result. Also, just because one system works in one location, doesn’t mean it should somewhere else. Any system can be expected to have limits, and demand for travel; available routes; infrastructure capacity; control systems; numbers of Origins and Destinations (complexity highway of the network); alternative modes of travel and their capacities and coverage; population spread and density; availability of local facilities in communities; and on and on; there are so many factors that affect the operation of a highway network. How successful the system is totally dependent how these any many more variables are dealt with in the control software that the mainframe is running, or the preparation of data that is fed into it.
  • I like her dad having a line to the mayor.
  • I’m sort of doubtful about it being portrayed as new technology. Urban Traffic Management Control systems (UTMC) or UTC sometimes, has been in existence for decades. Any system that she is working with will, I think, just be the latest iteration (or equivalent, more modern replacement) of some system or type of system that we have now. More often now these things are referred to as ITS (Intelligent Transport Systems).
  • At first, I don’t know who Mickey is; then I think it’s a nickname for the mayor; then I think that’s presumptuous; then I realise it’s probably an auto-spell-correction thing.
  • I like the tablet having a projection feature. Those are the tiny little details that really can make your story feel futuristic. You certainly don’t need to explain how it’s done, although if you can drop in a morsel of background that makes it look like you know how it would be done, that will make you sound like an expert!! I don’t think you can have enough of these little futuristic details in an ‘idea’ story.
  • if drivers would consent to total automation within fifty miles of high congestion areas” – I think you're on the right track here, but there is some contradiction, I think, in the presentation of the central idea/conflict as to what is the cause and what they are trying to eradicate.
  • pre-programmed visitor option” – the cost of implementing AV usage of existing roads, as far as I can tell, is all around the development of AI and the AV themselves being able to operate without external equipment, but purely on existing, unmodified roads. That being the case, it’s entirely possible that there would be no (or limited) cost to an individual city, other than in reacting to the effects of AVs coming into use on their roads. My point being, I could see how the link to local facilities would not necessarily be in place at the beginning of AV roll-out. Then again, the endless commercialisation of… everything, tends to suggest it would be, and that such a gap in the market is unlikely. Dunno.
  • If automation presents drivers with a means of bypassing that” – Hmm. My experience of toll roads is that there usually is an alternative existing route, so you are not holding drivers to ransom, which would be bad politically. Maybe future Chicago is different, but the point of the toll road being that you can either use the existing congested route, or pay to use the alternative toll route and avoid delays and have a free-flowing, quicker route – at a reasonable cost, so that enough people will choose to pay for the alternative such that it can be maintained in a cost-neutral way. This said, I could see a future, certainly in the USA, where they apply the same model to highways as is applied to health care, i.e. total (?) commercialisation. In other words, you pay for your highway not through general taxation, but at the point of delivery, i.e. you pay for the amount of driving that you do, not through any blanket entry tax on the price of the vehicle, or an annual charge like the UK’s Road Fund License. This is perhaps a more likely scenario consideration that fuel is much cheaper in this future, and therefore governments ability to raise money for highway improvements through fuel taxes would (presumably) be hugely reduced.
  • Cities that have implemented these programs have seen huge increases in employment” – Not sure about this. I’m not convinced to what extent employers care about transport of their staff. If you set up a new business your first concern is serving your customers. Okay, that relies on transport, but if you are hiring staff, it’s up to them to get to work on time. You might not employ someone who lives an hour away, or 2 hours away (UK anyway), because they are unlikely to stay with you in the long term due to the cost of commuting, but it’s their cost. Employers (generally) don’t pay for their staff to get to work – maybe in the future though… I think where you would see an increase in employment is when a new mass transit system was implemented, but in reality, these things are planned in advance. That’s pretty much what my profession is all about (more on this in conclusion).
  • I did not think our M/C came across as particular stubborn, and it’s hard to sell her being dogged in a short story. She’s had this project for less than a day, and their debate here took about 5 minutes, I reckon. I don’t think she’s earned the stubbornness ‘badge of honour’.
  • Dodge Tumbler” – lol.
  • She worked with enough programmers to know the greasy, deep-fried scent of the snack” – I don’t think you need to explain this. I think we’ve all seen/smelt an onion ring.
  • Alice projected into the next developer meeting” – I stumbled over this line a couple of times before I got it. I think the term ‘projected’ is archaic. Even now we use phrases like ‘dialled in’, ‘video conference’, etc. Also, 3D projection chat would surely have a slick acronym or nickname.
  • Drivers would still retain control of steering and signaling, but acceleration and braking would be…” – Ah, need to refer you to my earlier comment about it not being acceleration and braking that are the root cause, although in themselves are symptoms that could be treated by speed regulation. The problem is, to prevent accidents, you really need to take all control away from the driver, since it’s direction change and weaving (between lanes), merging (entry to the highway) and diverging (exit from the highway) where capacity and safety issues arise.
  • used intentionally for from hitting…” – this feels like new information late in the story.
  • Again, on Page 12, I think we hit the crux of the story, which is taking ‘rights’ away from the driver.
  • Cars still run on fuel, don’t they? I mean, what is the definition of fuel? Is electricity not still fuel? Even then, there is the question of where the electricity comes from, which is the next challenge. It’s fine having electric cars, but if the electricity comes from fossil fuel generation, then you’re no further forward, and have used additional energy for the power transmission, possibly.
  • ‘Too rooted to be fixed’ struck me as odd, since ‘fixed’ can mean rooted in place as well as repaired.
  • Vinyl records were well out of fashion by the time she was a teenager” – this may be the case in your future world, of course, but there has been a massive resurgence in vinyl since it dipped in the 90’s with the advent of CDs. Also, collectors never go away, and there has been always been a roaring trade in collectables, vintage, rarities – and always will be, I hope. I can attest to this from my work in a charity record store (in my spare time – lol) for these past 10 years, and the almost 500 vinyl records in my collection :D
  • her impending termination” – as an employer of 30 people, I don’t buy this. You don’t fire good people just because they can’t deal with one issue. And she’s not even a transport planner, she’s a programmer; I would argue it’s not even her job to solve this, but the job of an engineer. But I appreciate she’s been assigned the problem.
  • her father thumped on the record player” – Sweet Baby J, no!!! This man is not a record collector.
  • I like the moment of discovery that she has. I like how you portrayed that. Don’t know what it is yet, but the moment of realisation was very convincing.
  • There are two seasons in Illinois, Alice thought, construction and winter” – rofl, and by no means confined to Illinois. Have you been to Canada, and the UK, and… (etc.)
  • her route took her through the best parts of downtown Chicago” – yeah, I think some clarification is required as to what the fix is. So, essentially, she directs the traffic back into the city, which is where the freeway was intended to take all the traffic out of. This then bringing back vibrancy to areas that died or stagnated when all the activity was re-routed away?
  • Wait, what? Where did all this stuff about tyre scanners come from? I’ll say again, the solution here doesn’t address the actual causes of congestion, only the results. The cause of congestion is too many people going to the same place at the same time using the same mode of travel. That’s why trains are full, roads are backed up, flights over-booked, etc. Largely, congestion results from the demand for travel, and the solutions are either provide more capacity, more modes of travel (trains, buses – i.e. more capacity on the same route), or by changing people’s need to travel by flexible working, work-from-home, etc.

I like your reveal when she catches on to her father’s behaviour; that was very nicely done; surprising yet inevitable. That’s a nice way to make her look competent and a good way to bring us into the home stretch. Also, the connection between habits being in Dad’s bones as well as the city’s. I think that idea resonates nicely, and deservedly is the title of the story.

I think you’ve got a good story here, the trouble is that the basic facts are wrong, I’m afraid - in my professional opinion, as any transport planner or engineer with experience of transport / highways issues would say - I think. This does not mean abandon the story of course, but it really underlines big style the need to write what you know, or put in the hard hours researching the topic to a considerable degree.

Not perhaps what you wanted to hear; sorry, but you are in my house here, as they say.

<R>

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On 11/09/2017 at 7:16 PM, TKWade said:

I really enjoyed A's banter with her dad

Yes, I should have said, this was well done; the interweaving of personal aspects with the main thread of the story.

On 12/09/2017 at 8:46 AM, styn said:

The biggest weakness I see is that nothing exciting happens

Yes, I did have this concern too at the start, then kind of got wrapped up in the technical aspects. My professional interest, and the well done personal relationship carried me through the story, but the stakes were remote, not very personal, because I don't think the fear of being fired stood up.

18 hours ago, Mandamon said:

As a city planner, A. would have access to lots of driver's data.

Yes, absolutely and most definitely. The amount of data available to transport planners is very advanced and getting more so. For pedestrians, we can get bluetooth data that tracks travel patterns through a shopping mall (for example). Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) is used to automatically track vehicle patterns from location to location, thereby determining routing of traffic. This is also used for automatic tolling and congestion charging (vehicles pay to enter city centres or cross other artificial cordons.

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I will say, as someone who has been working in the fintech industry for about a decade, I'm not nearly as put off as the other's by the data cube. Here is why, virtually every digital/smart device has some level of local storage. IP cameras, printers, phones, smart watches, EV's, etc. You have to be able to store some level of data so that the device is available in an offline mode. Storage tech is improving all the time, so the idea that the EV's of the future having some sort of super data cube capable of storing terabytes, or more, data is very realistic.

What's makes it unrealistic for me isn't that the data cube exists, it's that the data isn't also accessible to A., in her current field of employment, via cloud storage. That's what breaks the realism for me. The EV's would almost certainly have local storage of some sort, but would also be uploading that data to a cloud database that in her current position, she should have access to without going through the 'red tape'.

Edited by TKWade
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2 hours ago, TKWade said:

I will say, as someone who has been working in the fintech industry for about a decade, I'm not nearly as put off as the other's by the data cube. Here is why, virtually every digital/smart device has some level of local storage. IP cameras, printers, phones, smart watches, EV's, etc. You have to be able to store some level of data so that the device is available in an offline mode. Storage tech is improving all the time, so the idea that the EV's of the future having some sort of super data cube capable of storing terabytes, or more, data is very realistic.

What's makes it unrealistic for me isn't that the data cube exists, it's that the data isn't also accessible to A., in her current field of employment, via cloud storage. That's what breaks the realism for me. The EV's would almost certainly have local storage of some sort, but would also be uploading that data to a cloud database that in her current position, she should have access to without going through the 'red tape'.

Yes. Also, I imagine they would still have transport planners in this day and age, so whoever gave this job to a programmer doesn't really know their own job, imho. Maybe the story is a buddy movie. A and B are unlikely partners, thrown together to solve a seemingly insurmountable threat to the city. The programmer and the transport planner don't get on at first, there's friction, tension and swearing until finally they develop a grudging respect for each other, and manage to crack the problem in the nick of time!!

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Thanks a lot @Robinski. Your feedback is going to be super-helpful when I get to it.

I've taken out the data cubes. They were only just a means to an end, and so far as I can tell their removal doesn't make a big impact on the story when they are removed. 

As of my latest revision, her father is an engineer (who thinkers with cars on the side), and is proofing some algorithms for Alice. 

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1 hour ago, rdpulfer said:

As of my latest revision, her father is an engineer (who thinkers with cars on the side), and is proofing some algorithms for Alice.

I like that.

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7 hours ago, rdpulfer said:

As of my latest revision, her father is an engineer (who thinkers with cars on the side), and is proofing some algorithms for Alice. 

Me too!

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Overall

I was very interested in the story premise, and I love the interaction of Alice and Dad. The end, however, fell flat for me, and I think the tech is dated. Good bones here though, and I think it could clean up very well! As an aside, I had no issue with the data cubes, but then again, I work in biology...

Does the story work?

Yes, I think so, but it needs edits, as noted above and below

Does the theme work?

I... have mixed feelings about this. Sort of? Maybe if the end was clearer

 

As I go

- page two: one day be programming a city, maybe?

- I know zip about cars, but should super tech car be shifting gears?

- okay, I know automated cars and traffic jams are not things that go together. 

- page four: max speed control already is in place in most semis. Seems dated here

- page four: "We need you to fix Chicago traffic" is a great line!

- page nine: why would toll roads decrease with automation? Can't the automation just go through the toll road?

- I really love the interplay of Alice and her dad. It is definitely carrying the story

- page 14: I think the big reveal of how Alice deals with the tech patch is muddled. It doesn't feel like a big thing, or any thing, really. I think the relevance and even the tech itself needs to be brought out more

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Thanks @kais I'm working on bringing out the technology more in the subsequent drafts. I also removed the toll road complication and just made more about taking away drivers' choices. 

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