GOOD
Issue 015

Boatcar, Traveling Legs, and Other Innovations

We asked the students of 826 in Los Angeles to imagine how we might get around in the future. Here's what they came up...

We asked the students of 826 in Los Angeles to imagine how we might get around in the future. Here's what they came up with.

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The Transport of Future Past

We have built ourselves into a mess. An over-abundance of demand for personal mobility is rapidly draining our supply of...

We have built ourselves into a mess. An over-abundance of demand for personal mobility is rapidly draining our supply of fossil fuels. How did we get here? One part of the answer lies with a group of men and women who, a half century ago and more put into the public record their ideas about what our future world should look like. Their visions-sleek lines, orderly grids, automated systems, and fantastic structures-influenced our modern transportation infrastructure. Their ideas ultimately buckled under the weight of their own grandiosity, but the impulse that motivated these explorations-to envision a better future, and hope for its realization-is still relevant. It falls to us to imagine our own better tomorrow.(Above: The Futurama exhibit at the 1939 World's Fair is often credited with instilling in Americans our current ideas about transportation. The exhibit, sponsored by General Motors, imagined a world two decades in the future as a vast network of high-speed roadways, connecting disparate suburbs with massive urban centers.)

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The Future Is Wow

What if the techy transportation of sci-fi movies isn't as far-fetched as it seems? We asked Seth Shostak, scientist and film consultant, to rate them on a scale of 1 ("dream on") to 10 ("totally feasible"). Bring on the levitating cars! Technology: Placing people in "stasis"-suspended animation-for..

\nWhat if the techy transportation of sci-fi movies isn't as far-fetched as it seems?

We asked Seth Shostak, scientist and film consultant, to rate them on a scale of 1 ("dream on") to 10 ("totally feasible"). Bring on the levitating cars!

AlienTechnology: Placing people in "stasis"-suspended animation-for long journeysRelease date: 1979Future depicted:Rating: 7What's the holdup?

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Call In the Designers

In any field, designers have to synthesize competing interests to come to an elegant solution. Imagine what they could do to...

In any field, designers have to synthesize competing interests to come to an elegant solution. Imagine what they could do to transportation.

Centuries of artificially cheap energy have established an expectation of ubiquitous personal mobility and freight transportation in the developed economies of the world. This expectation has caused four problematic consequences: serious ecological degradation, urban congestion, human health issues, and rapid depletion of finite energy sources.As developing economies aspire to the same levels of materialism and mobility as the rest of us, our global community faces an untenable future. We are all faced with an enormous and complex problem that needs radical solutions. While this is a daunting task, there are tremendous opportunities to break some historically bad habits and create innovative, smarter ways to mobilize ourselves and to deliver the food and goods we need to live. Accelerated by some inevitable truths about energy that we will have to face in the not-too-distant future, such changes are possible.However, it is not just science, technology, or astute business and political philosophies that will provide the answers. In order to make real changes that bring truly sustainable transportation and personal mobility, the populations of the world have to be inspired and excited about embracing these changes. Human beings are inclined to change when they see that it will improve on what they already experience. This is where the role of the designer comes into play.Creating sustainable transportation, particularly in urban environments, will be a truly multidisciplinary effort. Engineers, sociologists, urban planners, scientists, architects, designers, policy makers, manufacturers, economists, and regulators all have to work together to create solutions. But it is my belief that designers can contribute far more to these innovative transportation solutions than just compelling design. I believe that while this will still be an important role for designers to play, an even more important one will be to facilitate all these diverse specialists and experts-to be what we call "systems balancers."What's a system balancer? If you look at the role of an industrial or car designer in a large company today, they have a conflict of interest. On the one hand, they need to design products that their enterprise can sell profitably. On the other hand, they are also on the side of the customer, making sure that they design a product of value that excites them, but also meets all their needs and expectations. More often than not, they fulfill these conflicting roles with aplomb by working with all the other disciplines that design and develop complex industrial products. They frequently have to make judgment calls on issues that are not always popular with their specialist colleagues. Designers have to ensure that the end user benefits from a well-balanced product. This is what I mean by designers acting as systems balancers.In the far larger and more complex challenge of creating sustainable urban mobility systems, designers will need to develop these skills to a much higher level to become big-picture thinkers as well as solutions experts. By so doing, transportation designers of the future can develop the wisdom, clarity of vision, and leadership to influence high-level transportation policy makers. This would ensure that transportation and mobility of the future would be as compelling as they are ecologically responsible and economically sustainable.This is why Art Center College of Design, with its legacy of being a leader in transportation design education, felt a profound responsibility to create a series of summits on the topic of sustainable mobility. After the third summit, in February, we were very encouraged by the response from the diverse experts who attended all of the summits. It seems as though these beliefs are resonating all around. I look forward to accelerating the momentum for our remaining planned Sustainable Mobility Summits, after which we have promised to establish a set of guiding principles for creating future sustainable mobility.

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Gallons to Go

Knowing your car's miles per gallon isn't going to get you very far. Last summer, Richard Larrick and Jack Soll, professors at Duke's Fuqua School of Business, published a paper arguing that Americans did not understand how fuel efficiency works. They found that most people assumed that improving a car's..

Knowing your car's miles per gallon isn't going to get you very far.

Last summer, Richard Larrick and Jack Soll, professors at Duke's Fuqua School of Business, published a paper arguing that Americans did not understand how fuel efficiency works. They found that most people assumed that improving a car's miles per gallon from 25 mpg to 50 mpg would save more gas over 10,000 miles than an improvement from 10 mpg to 20 mpg. But when you do the math, the latter saves more than twice as much (see chart). "Miles per gallon," they argued, was misleading and did not help drivers understand how much gas they were using. The proposed solution: gallons per mile.GOOD: So, miles per gallon doesn't actually measure how much gas you use?RICHARD LARRICK: The paper was cowritten with a colleague of mine and we actually live near each other and carpool in his Camry hybrid, which has an mpg readout on it. One day, we were watching it and seeing the good and bad mileage. We were thinking about whether you could average together the miles-per-gallon readout to get total miles per gallon, and we realized that the math of miles per gallon gets tricky and it can be really misleading.Imagine that you are driving uphill for 100 miles and you're getting 10 miles per gallon, and then you just turned around and drove down the same hill for 100 miles and you got 100 miles per gallon on the way downhill. And the question is: What is your average miles per gallon over that distance?It feels like it should be about 50, but it turns out it's 20.The amount of gas you're using to go 100 miles when you're getting 10 mpg is 10 gallons. And when you're getting 100 mpg as you're driving 100 miles, you use just one gallon. So you're using a total of 11 gallons to go 200 miles, and that gets you a little bit under 20 miles per gallon.G: Do you have any idea how we ended up with this measurement of fuel economy that doesn't really tell us how much gas we're using?RL: [My colleague and I] speculate that when we first had cars, and gas stations were few and far between, maybe it actually mattered that you knew exactly how far you could go on a tank of gas before needing to be able to refill it.G: Are you seeing more and more people considering using gallons per mile?RL: A little bit. One of the things we've discovered in the process of publishing this and having it be publicized quite a bit over the summer was that conversations like this had gone on at Consumer Reports and car magazines in the past. The engineers know that there's this problem with miles per gallon. But everyone assumes that because we're so used to mpg-which we are-that people are not going to be open to changing anything.I'm kind of frustrated because I've tried to reach out to the EPA several times. The one thing they do [on fueleconomy.gov] is gallons per 25 miles. So that is there. And that's been there since before we did our research. But my problem with that is that 25 miles is too small a distance to actually see the difference in cars. So it's always .9, 1.2, 1.1-to me, all those numbers of gallons look the same.We actually prefer 10,000 miles. The key thing about 10,000 miles is that is the distance that many people drive in a year. In fact, they often drive more. It really gives you a sense of, Okay, a year's worth of driving is going to use 400 gallons, or 700 gallons.G: What about car companies? Any sense they'll start using different numbers?RL: People are always curious-who does this benefit? I'm not really sure if Toyota or Detroit is favored more by this. But I think you can make the argument that it's Detroit, which was putting hybrids on SUVs and being ridiculed for it. Well, our analysis indicates that's exactly right. Because to get a car from 14 mpg to 20 mpg is just a huge, huge improvement in reducing gas consumption.I do know that, in 2004, Honda and Toyota called for supplementing miles per gallon with gallons per 100 miles. And I only discovered this after we published the paper, so it wasn't something we were able to even cite because we didn't even know about it at the time. They heard people complaining that the Prius wasn't getting 50 mpg and that it was getting 42 mpg instead, and people were so frustrated to lose the eight miles per gallon, but once you flip the numbers over you realize you're talking about a few gallons per hundred miles.G: So, what's the next step? How can we use this new knowledge?RL: This helps us understand that pulling cars out of the teens [in terms of miles per gallon] is so much more valuable than pushing an efficient car even higher. That only becomes clear when you start thinking about gallons per mile. That tiny increase from 10 mpg to 11 mpg saves essentially the same one gallon of gas every 100 miles as does increasing 33 mpg to 50 mpg.In no way do we advocate that people should stop at 11 mpg, but it at least focuses your attention on getting all those cars in the teens up into the twenties where literally hundreds of gallons of gas will be saved for every 10,000 miles of driving.

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Walk On

A look at America's most pedestrian friendly cities Walking is arguably the most efficient mode of transportation, and you don't need...

A look at America's most pedestrian friendly cities

Walking is arguably the most efficient mode of transportation, and you don't need petroleum to power it; some French fries will do. But disturbingly few of us take advantage of our built-in bipedal locomotion function. Are we to blame, or is it our environment?A website called Walk Score aims to answer that question. It ranks U.S. cities based on their "walkability," a proprietary formula that measures population density, pedestrian-friendly design, public space, schools and businesses, and commerce.Its algorithm is, admittedly, imperfect. It doesn't, for example, consider a city's public-transit infrastructure, nor does it account for features of the built environment-like block length, frequency of crosswalks, topography-or natural beauty, which influence walkability. But the site's editors are impressively committed to improving their methodology, and they're even more committed to making walking policy a more important part of the national discussion about transportation by pushing for changes in the 2009 Transportation Bill.Here are the current top 10 most walkable cities in the country, and a graph of their walk-score distribution.A city's Walk Score is the average of the walk scores (from one to 100) of all the neighborhoods in a city. The graphs show Walk Score Distribution-the range of scores of the neighborhoods in each city.

Walk Score

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