How the car will drive urban planning – again!

In the week of declining iPhone sales, rumours of the iCar as a new revenue stream swept the news pages. Despite scepticism of Apple’s ability to construct an electric/self-driving car (depending on which rumour you believe) on its own, the Apple brand could make it a player. An opportune moment to pick up a copy of the recently released paperback version of Reinventing the Automobile: Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st Century.

The General Motors background of two of the authors (Lawrence D. Burns, former VP of R&D at GM, and Christopher E. Borroni-Bird, GMs Director of Advanced Vehicle Concepts) is unusual in a space where public profile belongs to tech companies such as Google and Apple, and mavericks such as Elon Musk. The third author (how many drivers does this book need?!) brings the academic kudos of William J Mitchell, former Professor of Architecture and Media arts and Sciences at MIT – and Director of Smart Cities research group at MIT’s Media Lab.

Partly about car design, what’s really interesting about the book is the bits of urban furniture, commerce and lifestyle the driverless car may create.

Smart curbstones, inductive charging pads and energy systems could revamp how we build, manage and think about our cities.

So for example because electric grids experience significant transmission losses over long distances, we may need to think differently about energy networks, “distributed systems of combined heat and power plants in building basements, solar panels on roofs, and wind turbines in suitable locations minimize transmission losses by distributing and mingling generation within the urban fabric.”

New network technology will enable more efficient markets for road pricing, energy usage and parking spaces as citizens are able to make informed judgements about travel times.

The fascinating thesis driving Reinventing the Automobile is that for all the buzz about the electric or driverless car, it is all the interdependent elements that will change how our cities behave and make us mobile in a different way.  

Reinventing the Automobile: Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st Century is out now in Paperback from MIT Press.

There are currently no comments for this article.

Login to comment. slider