Beyond the Personal Automobile
The connected car has finally arrived. Our smart phones sync up with our dashboards, and soon vehicle-to-vehicle communication could make car crashes a thing of the past. Ford recently announced it's working on a "smart seat" that will detect when a driver is having a heart attack. What could be better?
How about using technology to allow millions of us to move beyond car ownership? You won't hear large automobile companies talk about it, but information technology gives society the greatest chance in decades to rethink transportation. Instead of cars equipped with medical sensors, I would like to see fewer cars and more room for bike paths. A little exercise will make our hearts stronger.
In America, nearly all of us has a personal automobile, available at our doorstep at all times. This is immensely convenient. It provides access to work and opportunity. But it brings familiar problems: billions of dollars sent each year to the Middle East, growing carbon dioxide emissions, traffic, noise pollution, and paving over of green space. Only a quarter of us can get to work using public transportation in 90 minutes or less. About 50 percent of urban land is dedicated to transportation. In Denver, where I live, the average car has 1.1 occupants. When I see someone driving with nothing but a hat on the passenger seat, I feel as though I am looking backward in time at an early steam engine or some other immensely inefficient contraption.
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