Future Cities Digest #31 (26/06/2014)

by Diana Phiri-Witty

#NYC #transport safety #VisionZero #25 m.p.h

New York City is set to slow down to 25 miles per hour following the state legislature approved plan that aims to address the issue of traffic safety. Transportation officials have begun to plan ‘highly technical’ changes such as adjusting automated enforcement cameras, and changing the timing of traffic signals throughout the city. New York’s transportation commissioner Polly Trottenberg predicts that citizens will notice little change in travel times because efficient driving time is ‘determined by the intersection far more than it’s determined by the straitways.’ Criticism against the scheme however points out the challenges in lowering the speed in an already ‘traffic choked city,’ and others suggest ‘any safety gains from the changes would be limited without more aggressive police enforcement.’ Mayor de Balsio’s ‘Vision Zero’ plan to end traffic deaths by 2024 however had speed reduction as a top priority, and New York adopted this plan from a Swedish traffic safety model. It will be interesting to see how an international model can be adapted to fit the streets of New York.

 #RIBA #Sterling Prize #british architecture #long list

56 buildings have been long listed for the 2014 prestigious RIBA Sterling Prize. The competition awards a £20,000 prize to the architects of the ‘building that has made the greatest contribution to British architecture,’ each year. RIBA has reported that this year has seen the completion of ‘high quality confident public buildings’ due to a ‘recession trend,’ that has led to a low number of private and commercial buildings gaining recognition. Amongst the most recognizable long list are western Europe’s tallest 87 storey building the Shard, and it will be coming up against the curved London Olympics swimming pool. Other buildings across the UK are the artistic and sustainable new Everyman Theatre in Liverpool, the multiuse New Generation Centre in Lewisham, and the Library of Birmingham with ‘a shimmering façade clad with interlocking metal rings.’ The shortlist for the Sterling prize will be announced in July. Meanwhile here is a full list of the National Award Winners.

#autonomous vehicles #car sensors #Cruise #Y Combinator

An interesting innovation seems to be happening in the (semi-) autonomous vehicles industry. Cruise Automation, a new technology and business idea from the well-respected Y Combinator start-up accelerator, released a computer controlled driving system that can take control over the car while you’re behind the wheel. The product is a mixture of custom-designed sensors that are mounted to the top of a car; actuators for the steering wheel, brakes, an accelerator, as well as a computer system that’s installed into the trunk to process data from the sensors and stream it back to the wheel. According to The Verge, the company’s grander plan is ‘to map freeways and share that data between vehicles, creating a large network of road data that’s being constantly updated’. The device, placed between the 100k $ Google research car and an old-school speed control system, is still quite expensive for a consumer product (10 000$), but the price is expected to steadily decrease.

 #disruptive innovation #debate #Lepore #Christensen

A fierce, and widely commentated debate about the nature and evidence behind the concept of ‘disruptive innovation’ hit the ground after Jill Lepore, acclaimed Harvard University historian, challenged Harvard Business School strategy-guru – Clayton Christensen. Disruption, as Lepore argues, has become an ‘all-purpose rallying cry, not only in Silicon Valley – though especially there – but in boardrooms everywhere, and it’s a theory of history founded on a profound anxiety about financial collapse, an apocalyptic fear of global devastation and shaky evidence’. According to Andrew Hill, Financial Times columnist, Lepore’s article has struck a nerve in Silicon Valley where disruption is ‘the raw meat for hungry pack of attacking start-ups’. Paul Krugman described Lepore’s argument as a ‘careful takedown’, pondering whether ‘the whole era of innovation might collapse from its own overhype’ (resembling some earlier management fads). You can read Lepore’s article here (caution: long read), Christensen’s response in Businessweek here, and quite a good commentary on Uthotherescue.

 Recent reports and publications:

  • London: Digital City on The Rise – June 2014, Bloomberg Philanthropies (highlights: framework for studying the impact [size & growth] of London’s tech-info sector, comparative analysis with other tech-hubs)
  • Urban Mobility in the Smart City Age – June 2014, Arup & Schneider (highlights: intro to ‘smart mobility’, examples of service types and user groups, value chain for ‘sustainable urban mobility’)

This weeks artefact from the future
A Machine that Visualises The Ghostly WiFi Waves That Surround Us (Luis Hernan)
‘Living in a major city, Internet signals and WiFi waves surround us like ethereal spirits or phantoms. There have been multiple occasions when we’ve wondered if the seemingly omnipresent local networks could be visualised, or even animated as unique shapes and bodies. Luis Hernan, a PhD candidate with the Architecture and Interaction Design Group at Newcastle University, is exploring such a concept, as he’s developed a machine that turns Internet signals into vibrant, LED-based forms.’