The Week in Mobility News — 23 October
Accidentally wielding power
I can choose to break the speed limit. It’s ill advised to do so and there is a chance I will be caught and possibly fined. However that doesn’t stop me from putting my foot down and creeping or indeed plunging over the limit. There exists a mutual trust between law enforcement and myself in which the repercussions of speeding are not (always) worth the risk.
Fast forward to an autonomous car which knows exactly what the speed limit is and as such, will be programmed not to exceed it. The relationship changes from one of coercion, to one of force. In this instance, not only am I not able to make a choice, albeit a sensible one, but I am also no longer accountable for that choice.
Technology makes this relationship to power and choice easier to implement. UK DVD players were/are incompatible with US DVDS, iPlayer can’t be watched outside of the UK (without a VPN), parental controls prevent children accessing inappropriate content. Nine times out of 10 these systems are in place for good reason. But what happens if you accidentally wield this power?
The Smart City Industry will almost double in value to $617.2 billion by 2023. Greenfield smart cities such as Masdar city, Abu Dhabi and Songdo, South Korea have been built from the ground up incorporating central control systems to monitor and regulate the functioning of the city. Citizens’ activities are laid out by prior calculations such as where to shop or how to get to the doctor most efficiently.
(Masdar Smart City — Abu Dhabi)
But what is motivating these systems? Could citizens become consumers in which brands can negotiate that certain routes which take citizens past their shops are prioritised? Not only are citizens forced down a particular route but forced to view the world through a particular filter that they may not have knowingly chosen.
We each leave a trail of data in our wake following almost all of our exchanges. In a smart city this wake can be moulded into a perpetual echo chamber. A casual google of standup paddle boarding could end up sending you down routes that only take you past bodies of water, or suggest shops that only sell wetsuits.
Humans are much more complex than what is inferred from our data. Standup paddle boarding one day and a Netflix binge the next. Efficiency doesn’t translate to freedom and simulation doesn’t translate into the irrationality of real life.
Reassuringly some are starting to think about this, the Bouygues group and HEC Paris have created the role of the “Smart City and Common Good” chair with the objective of contributing to thinking on major societal challenges and conveying a people-focused vision of the smart city to future decision-makers.
How we move around in a city is fundamental to our relationship to it. When optimising transportation systems how can we cater for the human need for choice, chaos and randomness that results in the social and cultural exchanges we need to feel a greater sense of belonging to our cities?
Arrival in the news
Following the announcement of Black Rock’s investment of $118 million, Arrival has been making numerous headlines ( FT, Business Insider). My personal highlight was “Let Elon Musk Go Giga: A U.K. Upstart Says Microfactories Are The Profitable Way To Build Electric Vehicles” in Forbes, accompanied by one of Arrival’s Andor’s beautiful images. The materials team also wrote this medium article explaining how we’re approaching composites.
Elsewhere in the industry
- BYD announced the delivery of two American-made battery-electric K9S buses to the Macon-Bibb County Transit Authority (MTA)
- PSA & Moroccan postal service to adapt Citroën Ami
- Fisker Inc. secures order for 300 Ocean SUVs from Danish ride-hailing service Viggo
- Riversimple to launch its Rasa fuel cell-powered small car in 2023 and a light delivery van for the last mile from 2024
- Biomimicry in Architecture to improve environmental impact
- Technology company UrbanChain is helping customers to become carbon neutral, as well as tackling fuel poverty using peer-to-peer (P2P) trading
- Flash Express, a two-year-old logistics startup that works with e-commerce firms in Thailand raised $200 million
- GMC Hummer EV is coming in 2022
- How different countries are perceiving the safety of different transportation options amidst covid
- FluidTruck, a US based van rental platform assded 600 electric vans to its fleet
- Blue Bird, a manufacturer of electric school buses, is ramping up annual production to 1000 buses per year
If you have 10 minutes, watch this incredible video about the making of the digital, live map of the New York Subway. The New York City Transit Authority’s approach to mapping is one of the most studied and debated topics in historical graphic design, which comes down to a question of which is more important when navigating subterranean tunnels: informational clarity or geographic literality.
Imogen Pierce, Head of Experience Strategy