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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.

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 transport, technology and politics

I frequently share articles I found to be interesting and intriguing. One of my current research interests is on ridesharing, ridesourcing and carpooling. And so when I saw this article online, I felt it had some good arguments pertaining to ridesharing considering these are all claiming to be

Transport isn’t technology, it’s politics

The article is by Konstantinos Dimopoulos and appeared on How We Get to Next last February 17, 2017.

Technology push?

An acquaintance announced that his company is planning to sponsor an event aiming to attract developers to come up with apps that could help alleviate transport problems in Metro Manila (and probably and potentially, elsewhere). This reminded me of a similar event a few years ago that was sponsored by an international institution that sought to have people come up with applications (apps)  that would enhance transport using transport data they have compiled. While the event attracted a healthy number of app developers and arguably came up with some useful software, the impact of such apps on commuting is at best marginal. For one, some apps attempted to reinvent the wheel, so to speak, as one app developed was too similar to the well-established Waze but with an inferior interface. Then there were those which probably could be useful if only most people had smart phones and were dependent on them for their trips.

Metro Manila is at the point when most major arterials are already saturated. Stricter traffic management (as it should be) can only do so much to address congestion along thoroughfares such as EDSA and Circumferential Road 5. Apps that are aimed at enhancing commuting would ultimately be limited as the transport infrastructure is lacking and those proposed or under construction would take time to complete. Yes, carpooling can probably help and an app enabling people to find travel/commuting companions would probably help. But it does not assure participants (both drivers and passengers) of their safety or security and so isn’t for everyone. Apps and similar or related technology pushes are categorized along with other stop-gap or band aid solutions. It might have some positive impact but these are short lived and eventually will not be productive. It definitely though will satisfy a lot of geek or nerdy egos in terms of what they can create that they think can help improve transport or traffic. And I suddenly recall a term used by one of my friends chiding others one night we were engaging in some academic discourse about transportation theory as applied to traffic problems in Metro Manila – “intellectual masturbation” – which seems an apt description for this (app development, etc.) type of exercise. One colleague even made the observation that such efforts only provide an excuse for government not to act on the urgent matter of traffic. Innovation may be welcome but it seems such a waste of time and talent to be solving the unsolvable through apps. (Can someone develop an app to fix MRT trains? Or perhaps solve contract issues of the PPP kind? I think you get my point.)

The main reason why people buy and drive their own vehicles is because these cars and motorcycles enable them from being dependent of public transport, which is generally perceived as having low service quality. While there is a need to manage the demand for private vehicles, restraint without the suitable public transport alternatives (think Singapore or Hong Kong for best practice examples) will not make sense as these punish people for something the government is not able to deliver in terms of transport services. This is a message I have seen in many papers that are the outputs of many studies presented at the recently concluded 11th International Conference of the Eastern Asia Society for Transportation Studies. In fact, this has been a message in past conferences as well. You can find the technical papers in their searchable site at the following link: www.east.info

In-vehicle tools for road safety

I recently came across a provincial bus operator who is promoting a device for limiting the speeds of vehicles. He states that all their buses are fitted with the device and together with an on-board camera and GPS, they are able to monitor their buses and ensure the safety and security of their passengers. It’s always good to know there are responsible and progressive bus operators like him. Unfortunately, his kind is a minority among many who appear to be after the proverbial quick buck rather than ensuring a high quality of service for travelers.

Devices limiting the speeds of vehicles are not new. These have been installed in many public transport and commercial vehicles like buses and trucks in order to regulate their speeds along highways and streets. Trucks from Japan are fitted with these devices and those second hand trucks being sold in the Philippines have these but are allegedly disabled by their new owners. They are not violating any laws here as there are no regulations requiring such devices to be installed in vehicles.

Tracking devices that include GPS are more recent technologies being used mainly by logistics companies to track their vehicles. These are particularly important for trucks laden with high value cargo or for delivery vans who schedules and routes need to be managed to ensure timely delivery of packages consigned to them. Data from these devices would allow for the assessment of driving speeds and behavior such as lane changing that can be used to determine if drivers are, for example, reckless. The same data can also be used to evaluate fuel efficiency.

Such devices also have research applications because data can be used to determine real-time traffic conditions. In fact, there have been probe car studies conducted in other countries such as Japan, Thailand and Indonesia where taxis were employed to gather traffic information along urban road networks (e.g., Tokyo, Bangkok, Jakarta). Similar experiments can be implemented for Philippine cities to derive traffic information that can be used to guide travelers regarding travel times and route planning.

Perhaps the DOTC through the LTO and the LTFRB, should look into the mandatory installation and use of these devices to regulate vehicle speeds for public and freight transport and also monitor driver behavior. Mandatory speed regulation devices as well as tracking systems have a high potential for weeding out reckless, irresponsible drivers that will ultimately lead to a reduction in road crashes that have resulted in serious injuries and loss of lives. Definitely, there will be objections or opposition to such a requirement but these devices can be justified given the clamor for safer transport and safer roads. After all, everyone of us are vulnerable road users where even the safest driver can be involved in crashes. It takes only one reckless driver or rider to cause a crash.