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On ‘electric cars’ still being ‘cars’

With the current climate talks in the background, there is also a parallel discussion on the impacts of electric vehicles and self-driving cars. Will they help solve our transport or traffic problems? Perhaps e-cars will contribute to the reduction of emissions and greenhouse gases. Perhaps they can also help in reducing dependence on fossil fuels. But can they alleviate congestion? Or will they just promote more car-dependence? Here’s a nice article from early this year that discusses the “big problem” with electric cars:

I also read another article about the issues concerning the batteries (e.g., lithium batteries) used by these e-vehicles. We are only beginning to see how difficult it is to deal with the waste of used batteries not just from e-vehicles but from other sources as well. Renewables like solar, for example, requires batteries for storage. These are issues that need to be addressed ASAP. Otherwise, it will be a losing proposition for people in general as they end up with modes of transport that are not sustainable for the future. Perhaps we can just walk or bike?

We need to do more to reduce transport emissions

I did some work on long term action plans on low carbon transport for the ASEAN region before. We were able identify many of interventions that were being implemented as well as those that can be done to reduce transport emissions. Such reductions for the region would ultimately contribute to alleviating global warming. Unfortunately, while ASEAN is a significant contributor to emissions, it pales in comparison to emissions by individual countries like China and the US. If these two and others in the industrialized world do not commit to reducing their emissions, all work will come to naught. Here is an article that serves as a pre-event write-up for COP26, a major climate summit that will be held in Glasgow in the coming days.

Another look at the ‘avoid, shift and improve’ framework

The transport and traffic situation during this pandemic has revealed a lot about what can be done and what needs to be done about transportation. Discussions about what and how people visualize their ideal or acceptable transportation system reminded me of the backcasting concepts and the tools. The following diagram is sourced from the SLoCaT homepage: https://tcc-gsr.com/global-overview/global-transport-and-climate-change/

Examples (i.e., non-exhaustive list) of avoid, shift and improve measures

Note the overlaps among the three? Do you think its possible to have a measure that’s avoid, shift and improve at the same time?

Note, too, that if we contextualize this according to the Covid-19 pandemic, these measures even make more sense rather than appear like typical, ordinary measures we have about transportation. The pandemic revealed many weaknesses or vulnerabilities of our transportation system. We are presented with the opportunity to address these and implement certain measures that would have met with a lot of opposition before but can probably be rolled out now such as public transport priority schemes and protected bike lanes. “Work from home” is not really new since the concept has been proposed and implemented before but not as widely as was required by the pandemic situation. So perhaps we should take advantage of this forced reboot of sorts for our transportation system to be able to implement this A-S-I framework.

Article on the new mobilities

Here’s a quick share of an article on what is described as the new mobilities:

Litman, T. [June 30, 2021] “Planning for New Mobilities: Preparing for Innovative Transportation Technologies and Services,” Planetizen.com, https://bit.ly/2U99Hlw [Last accessed: 7/3/2021]

What exactly are these new mobilities? To quote from the article:

“New Mobilities

  1. Active Travel and Micromobilities. Walking, bicycling, and variations, including small, lower-speed motorized vehicles such as electric scooters, bikes, and cargo bikes.
  2. Vehicle Sharing. Convenient and affordable bicycle, scooter, and automobile rental services.
  3. Ridehailing and Microtransit. Mobility services that transport individuals and small groups.
  4. Electric Vehicles. Battery-powered scooters, bikes, cars, trucks, and buses.
  5. Autonomous Vehicles. Vehicles that can operate without a human driver.
  6. Public Transport Innovations. Innovations that improve transit travel convenience, comfort, safety, and speed.
  7. Mobility as a Service (MaaS). Navigation and transport payment apps that integrate multiple modes.
  8. Telework. Telecommunications that substitutes for physical travel.
  9. Tunnel Roads and Pneumatic Tube Transport. New high-speed transport networks.
  10. Aviation Innovation. Air taxis, drones, and supersonic jets.
  11. Mobility Prioritization. Pricing systems and incentives that favor higher-value trips and more efficient modes.
  12. Logistics Management. Integrated freight delivery services.”
Cyclist along Circumferential Road 6 carrying a washing machine

On ‘high-tech’ bike tires

Here’s another recent article about tires developed by NASA for their rovers. Obviously, the objective was to eliminate flat tires when you send them out to explore other planets or moons. The applications here, however, will have a big impact on vehicles including bicycles that have increased popularity in the last year partly due to the pandemic. These might definitely become game-changers particularly for those who bike commute.

Golson, J. (March 23, 2021) “These NASA-developed bike tires could be the last you ever buy,” Inverse, https://www.inverse.com/innovation/these-nasa-developed-bike-tires-could-be-the-last-you-ever-buy [Last accessed: 3/25/2021]

I had posted about the tires on my father-in-law’s newly acquired pedal assist electric bike. Here is what it looks like. Of course, rubber is still the basic material here so perhaps this will be replaced by more durable (indestructible?) material stated in the article above.

On hover chairs

Here’s a quick share of an article presenting Segway’s attempt to become relevant:

So, A. (January 3, 2020) “Segway Is Bringing the Hoverchairs From WALL-E to Life,” Wired.

I still have to check though if this was the correct year for the article, which appeared in my recent Wired subscription considering it is already 2021. We now know that people have taken to active transport, particularly cycling or biking, during the pandemic. I place emphasis here on ‘active’ because anyone who’s watched Wall-e surely knows what humans there looked like. Active transport and not such hover chairs will likely be the mode of the future. Of course, there are suitable applications for these including perhaps a replacement for wheelchairs or enhanced transport for seniors and whoever may require such. But in general, perhaps we shouldn’t be dependent on these to move about.

On the need to increase NMT and public transport use

A recent report reinforces what many of us already probably know or are aware of – that we need to shift away from dependence on car use to more sustainable modes of transport in the form of non-motorised transport (NMT) and public transportation. Here is the article from the AASHTO Journal:

Global Climate Report Calls For Expansion Of ‘Non-Motorized’ Transport And Public Transit (2018)

There is a link to the report in the journal article. The report is conveniently available in PDF form and is very readable (i.e., not overly technical).

Incidentally, I was involved some time ago in a project led by the group Clean Air Asia (CAA), which involved several experts from across ASEAN as well as Japan that attempted to determine the necessary transport programs and projects in the region to stave off the projected increase in global temperatures. In all the scenarios evaluated, non-motorised transport (NMT) and a rationalised public transportation system By the term ‘rationalised’ I am referring to the use of higher capacity vehicles as against the taxis and tricycles that typically carry few if not one passenger. Here is a link to the final symposium for that study that has links to the materials presented:

The Final Symposium on the “Study on Long Term Transport Action Plan for ASEAN”

Here’s a slightly updated slide on the future image for a large city in the Philippines:

The future of walking?

Here’s another nice article on the most basic of all modes of transport for people – walking.

Levinson, D. (2018) “What will the footpath of the future look like?”,  foreground.com.au, https://www.foreground.com.au/transport/future-footpath/?platform=hootsuite [Last accessed: 7/18/2018]

My only comment about this article is that perhaps the matters mentioned here pertaining to technology that is often associated with the mention of the word “future” is something that the more advanced countries might be concerned with. They are not necessarily applicable to many if not most cases in the developing world much like the talk about autonomous vehicles being exciting in developed countries but not so in others. So yes, the future of walking should still be for people to walk and for authorities to provide the facilities for this activity. Active transport, after all, is not about moving machines but for people to be on the move.

Article on the need for ‘Context Cities’

Here is another good article I’ve found and read recently:

Wolfe, C.R. (2017) “Forget ‘Smart’ – We Need ‘Context Cities'”. Planetizen.com. https://www.planetizen.com/features/96310-forget-smart-we-need-context-cities (Last accessed: 12/21/2017).

Much has been said, I believe, about smart cities. I, too, have attended and even spoke (about Intelligent Transport Systems) at conferences or fora that had ‘smart cities’ as the central theme. Most talk about how technology can be used to further development and to address various transport and traffic problems. A lot of people tend to be excited when technology gets into the mix of things and yet few seem to be interested in a city seeking its true identity. And so the concept of ‘context cities’ over ‘smart cities’ become important as we need to contextualise what a city should be before we conclude that a technology push is the way to leapfrog into advancement. Perhaps the soul can be found and reconciled with and this is done through the context and not tech, which cannot replace history, heritage and culture that are distinct attributes of each city.

On “phone zombies” and road safety

You see a lot of people these days who are always on their smart phones. Many are walking while doing something with their phones whether making a call, typing away, listening to music or perhaps attending to social media. Many are not aware of what are happening around them and this puts them in a situation where that increases their vulnerability. There are those who cross streets without checking for oncoming traffic. There are those walking along the roadside who are not mindful of the likelihood of being sideswiped by vehicles. As such, there is a need to address this behavioral concern to reduce the occurrence of incidents that could lead to deaths if not injuries.

There is a nice article I read recently about an initiative in the Netherlands where they installed pavement traffic lights:

Scott, G.L. (2017) “Dutch City Installs Pavement Traffic Lights to Help ‘Phone Zombies’,” Inverse, https://www.inverse.com/article/38472-dutch-city-installs-pavement-traffic-lights-to-help-phone-zombies?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=culture&utm_campaign=photo, (Last accessed 11/19/2017).

The assessment for this initiative is quite limited – one day as mentioned in the article – but is promising especially from the perspective of innovation. We need such innovative thinking in order to address the issues about safety. This is but one example of many aimed at curbing road crashes that lead to injuries and deaths particularly with respect to the most vulnerable among us.