7 Standout Trends in Future Urban Mobility
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I really enjoy Meeting of the Minds’ unique combination of technology and regional planning. Two of the mobility conference sessions covered the “Urban Mobility Revolution” and carsharing (ZipCar, City CarShare, and peer-to-peer Buzzcar).
While the future is anyone’s guess, below are seven standout future mobility items, with a bias towards self-driving and youtubility.
1. GM’s EN-V: small self-driving, self-parking future car
The video (above) features high-speed autonomous crossings through congested, stoplight-free intersections. Automated parking fits more vehicles into less space (see video above).
At a 2012 Commonwealth Club talk, GM’s CEO Dan Akerson expressed some sympathy for raising the gas tax. A substantial tax increase, though unlikely, will increase demand for mobility services.
2. Toyota’s 2050 vision
Toyota’s futures video envisions a car-restricted, pedestrian-centered city with a hierarchy of green vehicle types.
3. Avego smartphone instant ridesharing
Avego is rolling out 2012 pilots in Santa Barbara and the north part of the Bay Area. Their introductory video shows the driver/rider matchmaking process, pickup logistics, and cloud payment.
4. Urban mobility new ventures and venture capital investments
Bill Ford Junior’s venture firm, Fontinalis, has bet on four different smart parking startups (ParkMe, Parkmobile, QuickPay, and Streetline), as well as Wheelz peer-to-peer carsharing. Mercedes Benz created their own Car2Go carshare system. Google Ventures and GM Ventures invested in Relay Rides peer-to-peer carsharing that now features OnStar integration. Honda is now supplying EVs to the Zipcar fleet.
5. Personal/Group Rapid Transit (GRT)
PRT: elevated, electric, self-driving “last mile” circulator transit with many four-person vehicles for airports, office parks, and universities. GRT deploys larger vehicles.
Ultra’s London Heathrow Airport system operates at ~99.7% reliability. Overview video:
Vectus has the strongest parent company (Posco) and their Suncheon system is under construction:
First-to-market 2getthere’s Masdar system also operates at ~99.7% reliability. 2getthere also has a GRT system in operation at Rivium GRT. This next video provides the yet-to-be-fully-realized Masdar ecocity. This video shows renderings of Ultra vehicles, rather than the installed 2getthere design:
6. Comprehensive new mobility
UM SMART’s Susan Zielinski’s favorite comprehensive mobility video is available at trasndev.com. It depicts a seamless mobility service where many tools are packaged together: carsharing, car rental, bike sharing, smartphone transit route planning, real-time location tracking, smart parking, guaranteed ride home, transit fare payment, context-aware web content, etc.
7. Google self-driving cars
In September, Governor Jerry Brown signed California Senate Bill SB1298 at Google Headquarters. The bill “creates a legal framework and operational safety standards for the testing and operation of autonomous vehicles on state roads and highways.” Signing video:
Google cofounder Sergey Brin, “What I see in this project is the promise to transform our urban and suburban centers, and to not need that much parking.” Brin goes on to describe an automated shared car system with empty vehicle movements as well as a self-park feature.
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This article was originally published on September 8, 2020.
Update for April 20, 2021:
After the murder of George Floyd we wrote this article as a kind of blueprint, a beginning to a new way of working with equitable resilience in our cities and beyond. Now, as the trial of Derek Chauvin comes to a guilty verdict in Minneapolis and the whole country reflects on the legacy of that verdict, we have to remember another senseless murder – another young Black man, Daunte Wright, at the hands of law enforcement, just miles from the courthouse. Again, Minneapolis is all of us. We have protested, we have voted. We stood up, we spoke out, we have raged about the anti-Black racism. We have seen people come together, we can feel a shift in this country. But there is so much more to do. No equity, no resilience.
-Ron & Stewart
Housing that is affordable to low-income residents is often substandard and suffering from deferred maintenance, exposing residents to poor air quality and high energy bills. This situation can exacerbate asthma and other respiratory health issues, and siphon scarce dollars from higher value items like more nutritious food, health care, or education. Providing safe, decent, affordable, and healthy housing is one way to address historic inequities in community investment. Engaging with affordable housing and other types of community benefit projects is an important first step toward fully integrating equity into the green building process. In creating a framework for going deeper on equity, our new book, the Blueprint for Affordable Housing (Island Press 2020), starts with the Convention on Human Rights and the fundamental right to housing.
Since the Great Recession of 2008, the housing wealth gap has expanded to include not just Black and Brown Americans, but younger White Americans as well. Millennials and Generation Z Whites are now joining their Black and Brown peers in facing untenable housing precarity and blocked access to wealth. With wages stuck at 1980 levels and housing prices at least double (in inflation adjusted terms) what they were 40 years ago, many younger Americans, most with college degrees, are giving up on buying a home and even struggle to rent apartments suitable for raising a family.
What makes it hard for policy people and citizens to accept this truth is that we have not seen this problem in a very long time. Back in the 1920s of course, but not really since then. But this is actually an old problem that has come back to haunt us; a problem first articulated by Adam Smith in the 1700s.