Driverless cars: Who really benefits?

An aerial view of a car manufacturer's parking lot showing rows of white carsThe concept of driverless cars excites some and terrifies others. But it is the technology and big business behind it that perhaps we should be concerned about. David Wilson writes in The Fifth Estate about this issue. He alerts us to the size and influence of tech giants and how they can utilise the data they can collect. He provides a table of vehicle enhancements and the time it took or is taking for the market to fully embrace them. The other factor is that vehicle components will change from the current 90% hardware and 10% software to 40% hardware, 40% software, and 20% app providers that link the two together. The article goes on to the important issue of governance. He concludes the article with, “The question is: will the loss of our familiar manual cars be a benefit for humanity, or are we heading towards an Orwellian future where a concentration of high-tech global “fangs” manipulate and control our lives, minimising government regulators to toothless tigers?”  Worth a read because this is part of the AI revolution that we will all have to deal with sooner or later and we need to make sure it is inclusive.The title of the article is, Driverless cars: benefit to humanity or road to an Orwellian dystopia?

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A train that flies?

TShows a white set of plane wings with a fuselage pod underneath aking off for a new adventure or a new adventure taking off? The latest idea could make accessing aircraft so much easier for everyone, especially smaller ones.  An article in the New Daily explains this sci-fi idea. Imagine boarding the aircraft body at a train station and then being transported to the wings of the aircraft sitting on the tarmac. Time would be saved as passengers could be processed on the go. There seems to be no shortage of ideas now that disrupt the way we think about everything we do.  The article has a mock up video of this Link & Fly idea. You can see it below. There is no narration, only music, so no captions.

Futuristic flying trains could be on their way

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Driverless vehicles: Will they be inclusive?

Graphic showing an orange vehicle on a dark blue background with circles indicating the vehicle is communicating with the environment Discussions about automated vehicles often include comments about improved mobility for people currently unable to drive. It is assumed people with disability, older people and children will have improved mobility options as this technology is rolled out. But is anyone seriously looking at this aspect? In the excitement of embracing this technology, as with many new developments, there is no guarantee that this group will be considered in the early development phases. So should this aspect fall under the responsibility of the National Disability Strategy to make sure all citizens are included in this major technological change? Two reports explaining the pros and cons of automated vehicles and the issues yet to be solved mention social equity issues, but have little to say about it otherwise.

The Landcom report on page 10 comments that issues of inclusion are talked about but no one has yet looked into it properly. According the report, the Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative is looking at people with a ‘minor’ impairment as a start point. The Infrastructure Partnerships Australia report gives this idea a brief mention on page 14. Both reports give detailed information and cover all the issues well in terms of technology, infrastructure, policy and regulation. Worth a read, or just a browse, if you want to get across the issues.

Amy Child, Associate Transport and Cities at Arup, will give an overview of future transport at the upcoming Australian Universal Design Conference in Brisbane 4-5 September 2018.

The Landcom report is a literature review and is titled, Urban Policy Implications of CAV in Bays Precinct. The Infrastructure Partnerships Australia report is titled, Automated Vehicles: Do we know what road to take? 

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Apps, activities and travel

A man stands on a train platform looking at his smartphone. He is wearing a hat and has a bright yellow backpack.There are many map apps and trip advisor ICT sites currently available and emerging, each with their own focus. But how can we better understand how people will use the apps? And how do the apps impact on activity and travel behaviour? This is an issue researcher Dick Ettema is keen to investigate. Apps, activities and travel: an conceptual exploration based on activity theory, is a very thorough piece of work for anyone with the time to read through it. Activity theory is used as a systematic way of investigating the effect of ICT on travel behaviour, and also how this links with maintaining social relationships.The author argues that with so many apps/ICTs we need a classification system  based on the objectives, practices and embeddedness in community. This would make it easier for researchers to identify differences in the way people use of ICTs/apps, and to identify inequalities in the use of apps. This leads to better understanding equity issues in terms of access to the technology and who profits from them. The full article can be found in Transportation, Special Issue: ICT, Activity Space-Time and Mobility: New insights, new models, new methodologies. March 2018, Issue 2, Pages 267-701. 

 

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Making transport work for people

Front cover of the reportIt seems the more disadvantaged a community or individual is, the less likely they are to access public transportation systems that work for them. This is the argument posed in a report based on research in California that looked into the issues. The outcome of the research is a Mobility Equity Framework based on two principles: social equity and community power. The pose a three step process that serves as a guide to elevate community engagement in planning and decision-making. This is followed by 12 mobility equity indicators under three goals: Access, Clean Air and Economic Opportunity. It also provides a mechanism to evaluate the equity in transportation modes. The Greenlining Institute introduces the Framework:

“For too long, transportation planning has focused on cars rather than people while neglecting communities of color and low-income neighborhoods. This framework offers planners and community advocates a step-by-step guide to a more community-centered transportation planning process that focuses on the mobility needs of communities and puts affected communities at the center of decision-making.

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Sticky problem for driverless cars

Front of a black car with soap suds and someone with a pink gloved hand is washing itThe revolutionary concept of calling up a driverless car on your phone is appealing to some, especially people who cannot drive. But before all this happens there are some details that need fixing. Big ideas such as better broadband so the vehicles can talk to each other is one thing, and getting regulations in place is another. But what about the finer details of the everyday? For example, can we rely on previous riders leaving the vehicle clean? Who will clean that sticky seat? Who is going to refuel or recharge the vehicle? How does vehicle maintenance happen? This is where innovative partnerships come into play. Avis in the US is partnering with Waymo to do their dirty work. Avis has the infrastructure for cleaning and maintaining vehicles, so it makes sense. What other partnerships will be needed I wonder? You can read more about this on the Co-Design website: The self-driving car revolution needs… rental car companies?  

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Good example of a step free transport map

Bottom right hand corner of the tube map showing the legend of all the different level of accessThis isn’t something from Transport for London, it’s from a blog site, Step Free London. It shows what can be done with transport maps when users know that attention to detail is everything. The personal experience sets it apart from other maps. An access icon can mean so many things, and this is shown in the legend of the map. For example it could be either: Full step-free access; Step-free access via ramp; Step-free access towards one direction; Out-of-station interchange; and Separate entrance for each direction, plus other combinations of partial access. The blog site has good information for map designers. It also contains all the latest information about travelling by train in London. There are similar maps available in Australia, such as City of Sydney accessibility map. The Citymetric site shows two tube maps for Paris – one for the general public and another with all the stations taken out that are not accessible. Then you see what a map really looks like to a wheelchair user or pram pusher for that matter. 

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Future Transport: The end of the car era?

Distant view across Sydney Harbour looking South. Probably taken from Tarongo ZooTwo related items in this post. Cameron Jewell’s article in The Fifth Estate looks at the NSW Government’s Future Transport Strategy, which has a goal of increasing shared public transport and reducing single occupant vehicles. It is also part of an idea for people to live in “30 minute cities” where jobs and services are within a short ride from where people live. Automated vehicles and drones are seen as part of the drive for sustainability as well. The title of the article is, “The end of the car’s reign? Will it help or hinder public transport?” But we have to make sure any new transport designs are accessible to all.

Front cover of the report with blue background and techno graphicsThe second item is a 65 page report:  from Sustainable Business Australia (SBA) is titled “Transporting the Future: A business perspective on future”. In the front of the report it says, “SBA, as part of the WBCSD, has begun to tackle the challenges of sustainable urban mobility, by taking a data-driven, multi-stakeholder approach that helps accelerate progress towards multimodal, inclusive and low-environmental impact mobility.” Lot of jargon there – totally inaccessible for most people. It basically means planning transport so that people can get around quickly and easily and not impact on the environment too much. And the typface is so small and pale it is not easy to read.  

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Mobility and mobilising with public transport

Front view of a Queensland Rail train at a station. It says Ipswich on the LED displayMaking the transition from driving to using other transportation options can be difficult – not least of all because many options were not designed with older people in mind. Transport policies, equipment and systems have been focused on journeys to work, not the day to day needs of older people and others not in the workforce. Introduction to Senior Transportation considers the physical and cognitive limitations of older adult passengers, the challenges in meeting their needs, and the transportation methods that do and do not currently meet their needs. The chapters in this book cover transitioning from driving, strategies and tactics, volunteer driver programs, technology and transportation, and ageing policy and transport, among many other topics. 

Introduction to Senior Transportation: Enhancing Community Mobility and Transportation Services is by By Helen K. Kerschner, Nina M. Silverstein and is available from Routledge.  

 

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Public transport and wheeled mobility

A woman is pushing a man in a wheelchair up a ramp into the train. The train guard looks on. Another woman in a wheelchair waits for her turn. A man with a stroller is also in the picture.Research on the real spatial requirements of wheeled mobility devices has been done several times in the past. But when it comes to developing standards to suit a wider user group, somehow those measurements get lost in translation. However, the world is moving on. The population is ageing (more mobility scooters) and people using wheelchairs of all sizes are able to get out and about more. Public transport has to keep up. To this end an interactive web tool has been developed to determine the dimensions of clear floor area to incorporate more users of wheeled mobility devices. The title of this important article explains the tool, Revisiting Clear Floor Area Requirements for Wheeled Mobility Device Users in Public Transportation. The article is not open source so needs institutional access (or purchase), but here is a section from the abstract:

“The web-based design tool is now available to practitioners who seek to accommodate a wider range of WhMD [wheeled mobility device] users than the minimum standards required by regulations. The design tool is also intended as a visual evidence base for regulatory activity and universal design practice with higher ambitions. The advent of driverless automated vehicles will increase the importance of accessibility and usability to accommodate the diversity of riders with disabilities. Clear floor space to enable independent ingress, interior circulation and egress among WhMD users will be a foremost concern. The transportation industry, standards developers, disability advocates, mobility device manufacturers and prescribers need to understand the limitations of current accessibility standards and work to address these limitations through updated vehicle design standards and policies. 

 

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