I thought I might write a follow up post to the one from earlier today following some excellent and highly relevant TED talks, in particular from Bill Ford and Salman Khan.
Clearly Bill Ford is on to something. Having recently been in cities like Lagos and New Delhi, traffic is becoming a major impediment to mobility. Whilst I certainly agree with his thesis on “smart” roads and cars that talk to each other – as a solution to the growing traffic problem (and indeed a major contributor to pollution – my project colleague Luis Cilimingras gave an excellent TEDYOU talk on how driving slower than 30 miles per hour creates significant inefficiency from a fuel economy perspective), he did not dwell enough on the need for more efficient and widespread public transport. This is probably self serving but the reality is that we are in a world that will be 10 billion people in our own lifetime, the only way to create sustainable mobility is through mass transportation systems and not to encourage further use of cars on roads. You only need to see the effect of the metro in New Delhi and Bangkok to understand how important this is. The car industry needs to reinvent itself (in much of the same way that Nokia did by moving from pulp and paper production to mobile phones) as a purveyor of mass transportation systems promoting efficient, cheap and sustainable mass transit systems. Interestingly, Bill talked about the need for integrated payment systems for mass transit as a precursor to efficient systems (Octopus in HK and Oyster in London) – this touches another powerful point around the mobility of money and how important this is as a part of the wider debate.
As an aside, some of the geo-location services that Bill talked about are not only a reality but our very own project leaders is building a smartphone based application that uses geo-location to get car services in New York to find you rather than vice versa – this makes the entire process much more efficient.
The Salman Khan angle is probably slightly derivative (pardon the pun). If we can create a more efficient distance learning system that augments school systems, then it itself becomes a powerful aid to mobility by connecting peers and teachers across large distances. Salman’s own experience of tutoring his cousins from a distance demonstrated the effect of this. More systems like this will be powerful additions to the social aspect of mobility.
Please come by our workspace (if you are in Palm Springs) and contribute your thoughts to our cause, if you are not here, we welcome comments on the blog or twitter! (#TEDActiveMOB)