Future Cities Digest #30 (19/06/2014)

by Lukasz Alwast

#electric vehicles #superchargers #patent sharing #Tesla

Tesla Motors, the Californian car manufacturer of electric vehicles, made a bold statement last week claiming that ‘All Our Patents Are Belong to You’ and the company ‘will not sue anyone who uses Tesla’s patented technology (…) in hopes of cultivating a bigger industry for rechargeable vehicles’. Elon Musk, the company founder, says his offer should spur wider development of electric vehicles as he is disappointed by ‘big car companies’ “small to non-existent” investments in electric cars’. According to WSJ, electric vehicles still represent less than 1% of cars and light trucks sold each year. One of the key aspects of this ‘patent move’ is releasing intellectual property of the company’s supercharger stations (EV equivalent of gas stations) – expecting for larger economies of scale, which would allow Tesla spread costs and open more stations in their expanding EV charging network.

#transport systems #benchmarking #global cities #Siemens

A recent study commissioned by Siemens investigated the economic value that ‘high performance, improved transportation systems’ could have across 35 global cities.  Pursued by Credo, a London-based transportation consultancy, it looked into network densities, journey times, service reliability, and crowding, as factors that impact the efficiency of a city’s transport system. Cities were compared to each other in various categories, for example: economic costs of low efficiency transport networks or present economic cost of transport as % of GDP per commuter. Copenhagen turned out to be the best performing city overall, due to its current high level of efficiency and future investments. Singapore ranked best in another category due to ‘strong governance and high capacity’, and Santiago ranked as ‘best performer’ in emerging cities for meeting the ‘changing demand of its population’ and modernizing its bus network. For more details have a look into the executive summary.

#urban modelling #social research #anthropology #China

Two months ago in the #20 edition of the digest we’ve covered a story about a group of Cambridge researchers trying to use behavioral and location data to determine events we’re most likely to attend. Recently, in Beijing, a group of Microsoft researchers explored a hypothesis whether people who are local in town have significantly different mobility patterns than visitors, or individuals who just recently moved to certain neighborhoods. The question that the team wanted to answer was: given a particular user and their current location, where are they most likely to visit in the near future? In practice, that meant analyzing the user’s data, such as their hometown and the locations recently visited (from a Chinese equivalent of Foursquare), and coming up with a list of other locations that they are likely to visit based on the type of people who visited these locations in the past. This type of research is particularly interesting for migration studies, and as one could imagine, similar insights might be useful to understand the way immigrants become a part of a larger, local community.

#starchitecture #smart globalisation #design culture #architecture

“As leading architects race to put their visual signatures on every nook and cranny of the world” – in a trending New York Times article, one critic wonders whether globalization is really such a good thing. The piece debates how a social art, such as architecture, is being treated as ‘a medium of individual expression.’ The author argues that attracting high-powered international architects to design cities can add value to the ‘perception of a place as a creative hotbed’, however, local architects (‘locatects’) arguably may have an inherent understanding as opposed to international (‘starchitects’) intellectual understanding.  The transferable nature of innovation and design often sparks a wide range of views, which brings to mind the Rockefeller Foundations concept of Smart Globalization, which holistically looks beyond the built environment and considers connecting individuals, institutions and communities with tools and techniques, ideas and innovations to build better futures.

Recent book publications:

“How do you describe emerging trends within a forming field? In this book, you will find a distilled conversation, filtered through the collective and embodied practices and experiences of eight diverse individuals. We have, in our hands and online, an attempt to characterise and discuss the emerging trends within urban interaction design, freely available for anyone to read, reflect upon and improve.”

“This book offers a comprehensive introduction to urban design, from a historical overview and basic principles to practical design concepts and strategies. It discusses the demographic, environmental, economic, and social issues that influence the decision-making and implementation processes of urban design. This Second Edition has been fully revised to include thorough coverage of sustainability issues and to integrate new case studies into the core concepts discussed.”

“This book looks at the phenomenon of new robot technologies, asks what impact they might have on the economy, and considers how governments, businesses and individuals should respond to them. It raises important questions for all of us – how society uses new technologies is not a foregone conclusion. It depends on political decisions, cultural norms and economic choices as much as on the technologies themselves. This book features views from a range of disciplines, including economics, engineering, history, philosophy and innovation studies.

This weeks’ artefact from the future:
The Digital Serenity Pilot (NYC Foresight)
“Our belief is that today’s cities not only have to connect their citizens but also have the responsibility to protect and preserve its citizens digital health and cater to the impacts of the increasing digitization of our cities and takes into account the weaknesses, anxieties and privacy of it’s citizens to achieve a balanced digital health. Based on the outcomes of the Lower Manhattan Pilot. Digital Serenity is the first roadmap to regulate the digital layer and enable regulated digital disguises and ways to protect our locational privacy to cater to our small vices, mishaps and wishes of us as citizens in our daily lives.”