Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, June 19, 2015

New York Times special section on technology and future of transportation

This section ran last week and there are about 10 articles.

-- Special Section: Transportation - Bits - The New York Times

Those of us of a certain age will remember the cartoon series, "The Jetsons," featuring a future where people drove skycars.

From "Tipping Point in Transit" (intwould have been better to use the word "mobility" in this headline):
“Cars and transportation will change more in the next 20 years than they’ve changed in the last 75 years,” said M. Bart Herring, the head of product management at Mercedes-Benz USA.
“What we were doing 10 years ago wasn’t that much different from what we were doing 50 years ago. The cars got more comfortable, but for the most part we were putting gas in the cars and going where we wanted to go. What’s going to happen in the next 20 years is the equivalent of the moon landing.”

Mr. Herring is one of many in the industry who say that we are on the verge of a tipping point in transportation. Soon, getting around may be cheaper and more convenient than it is today, and possibly safer and more environmentally friendly, too.

But the transportation system of the near future may also be more legally complex and, given the increasing use of private systems to get around, more socially unequal. And, as in much of the rest of the tech industry, the moves toward tomorrow’s transportation system may be occurring more rapidly than regulators and social norms can adjust to them.

“All the things that we think will happen tomorrow, like fully autonomous cars, may take a very long time,” said Bryant Walker Smith, an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law who studies emerging transportation systems. “But it’s the things we don’t even expect that will happen really fast.”
Of local--DC area--interest is the possibility of hacking traffic signaling systems, sending the road network into chaos.

During a strike by transportation personnel for the City of Los Angeles, which is otherwise known for being a leader in traffic signal coordination and intelligent transportation systems ("To Fight Gridlock, Los Angeles Synchronizes Every Red Light," New York Times), it is alleged that some traffic engineers deliberately hacked the system to create gridlock, by changing the constraints for only a few intersections.

According to the article cited below, Arlington County, Virginia, where the Pentagon is located, takes this issue very seriously.

-- Traffic Hacking: Caution Light Is On

Apparently, DC's traffic signal system is susceptible to hacking.

The article on the futurist working for Mercedes Benz is interesting in that, because metropolitan areas in the Western United States are still sprawled and disconnected, that he is focusing on those kinds of places.  Not said in the article, is that perhaps this focus keys on the continued strength of the car-dependent paradigm.

-- A futurist looks at where cars are going

Interesting though, he discusses cars as conveyances and transportation devices more than as vehicles owned and operated by the same person, e.g., that they could pick up and drop off people--adults going to work, children coming home from school--and even packages, without needing the high expense in either money or time of a driver.

Some of this is already happening, with the equivalent of "Uber for children," etc.

-- New Ride Services Forge Own Specialized Paths

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