December 30, 2005

LITTLE BOY:

Robot car: streets ahead in cities of the future (Alok Jha, December 29, 2005, The Guardian)

It is not every day that a concept car re-writes the rules of more than 100 years of motoring. In development for four years by a team of architects and engineers led by William Mitchell, former head of the school of architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), as part of his Smart Cities research group, a new MIT car is borne of a complete rethink of people's relationship with their cars in the ever-expanding cities of the future.

Prof Mitchell expects we will share cars that will be easier to drive in congested cities, will be pollution-free and can be customised at will.

The city car concept, with styling input by architect Frank Gehry, will be completed and delivered by MIT to General Motors early next year.

"Primarily we're interested in urban living," says Ryan Chin, an architect and engineer at MIT's media lab and a member of Prof Mitchell's research group. "Everything scales down from what we think the city of the future is."

The Smart Cities group focused on how cars could be better adapted to get round familiar problems of city life, namely congestion, pollution and parking. Motor companies are well aware of the issue. But the group felt the companies had missed the point, even with city cars such as the Smart, the iconic two-passenger cars introduced by Swatch and Mercedes in 1998.

"We have to think of city cars as not just small-footprint vehicles that can squeeze into tight spaces but ones that can work in unison and also be almost like a parasite that leeches on to mass-transit systems," says Mr Chin. While Smart changed the way people think about parking and size, the MIT engineers felt that, as it had not been widely adopted and congestion and pollution problems had got no better, its success had been limited.


A bigger cabin would be better so that the experience is more sociable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 30, 2005 12:42 PM
Comments

This is a great idea for getting rid of mass transit.

Posted by: pj at December 30, 2005 12:54 PM

johnny cab!

Posted by: toe at December 30, 2005 1:31 PM

"Hope you enjoyed the ride!"

Posted by: Bryan at December 30, 2005 1:37 PM

Prof Mitchell expects we will share cars

Wrong!

"Primarily we're interested in urban living,"

Wrong again!!

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 30, 2005 2:11 PM

What we need is someone to tell us "you will be primarily interested in urban living."

Where's Uncle Joe when you need him?

Posted by: Ed Bush at December 30, 2005 2:28 PM

i don't think people would want to share a ride, but maybe they mean these cars would be shared in the sense they are communally owned. when an empty one comes by you get in it.

Posted by: toe at December 30, 2005 2:52 PM

Oh, gross. Do you know what people do in their cars? Can you imagine how digusting those communal cars will get when people not only don't own them but then don't have to pay attention to driving while on long trips? Yargh.
Regardless of how it may be a detriment to the collective, I'll keep my privately owned car that I'm 100% sure nobody has masturbated in or picked their nose and rubbed it off on the seat cushions.

Posted by: Bryan at December 30, 2005 4:36 PM

sounds like a little projection going there, bryan :P

Posted by: toe at December 30, 2005 4:40 PM

Two words: expressways, trucks. No one in his/her right mind would take this on any street with a speed limit over 35 or where trucks are allowed which is where at least part of many daily commutes take place.

In Chicago, "Da Mare" is constantly waging a war on cars in the Loop so there is no opportunity to drive from, say, the North Side to downtown.

Posted by: Rick T. at December 30, 2005 8:21 PM

My buddy who is in a mechanical/environmental engineering at UC Irvine, has been telling me about some of the ways that CA is trying to come up with policies that incorporate suburban/expressway traveling with urban traveling; some think that mass transit coupled with the urban shared cars is a good approach.

Posted by: Grog at December 31, 2005 1:02 AM

i don't think people would want to share a ride, but maybe they mean these cars would be shared in the sense they are communally owned. when an empty one comes by you get in it.

Some idealists in St Paul tried something similar to this with bicycles a while back. They would leave bicycles on street corners in a "ride sharing" program for the poor urban folk. The theory was that you pick up a bike when you need to get somewhere, and leave it for the next guy.

Unfortunately, to their chagrin, the bicycles were all stolen. An idea this silly requires advanced university degrees, noone with more common sense than a fire hydrant could think that this would work. Besides the obvious theft, it ignores the fact that when people have to get somewhere, they need to have a guaranteed, dependable means of tramsport. What are the odds that a bicycle would have conveniently been left at your doorstep at the right time for you?

Bryan is right on regarding the quality of shared assets. Stewardship only comes with ownership. The common trough will only be exploited, never nourished.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 31, 2005 11:38 AM

You could do a fractional-ownership programme, as they do with business jets.

You'd always have a vehicle available, but not the same one every time, and records would be kept of who had which vehicle when, so if there were problems with damage or messes, the culprits could be dunned/banned.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 31, 2005 2:24 PM

Michael,
We already have that, they're called rental cars.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 31, 2005 2:50 PM

A bigger cabin would be better so that the experience is more sociable.

So long as there's room enough for Orrin in the trunk it'll be sociable enough.

Posted by: joe shropshire at December 31, 2005 6:05 PM
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