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Reinventing the Automobile: Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st Century [Hardcover]

William J. Mitchell , Chris E Borroni-Bird , Lawrence D Burns
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 29, 2010 0262013827 978-0262013826 0

This book provides a long-overdue vision for a new automobile era. The cars we drive today follow the same underlying design principles as the Model Ts of a hundred years ago and the tail-finned sedans of fifty years ago. In the twenty-first century, cars are still made for twentieth-century purposes. They're well suited for conveying multiple passengers over long distances at high speeds, but inefficient for providing personal mobility within cities--where most of the world's people now live. In this pathbreaking book, William Mitchell and two industry experts reimagine the automobile, describing vehicles of the near future that are green, smart, connected, and fun to drive. They roll out four big ideas that will make this both feasible and timely. First, we must transform the DNA of the automobile, basing it on electric-drive and wireless communication rather than on petroleum, the internal combustion engine, and stand-alone operation. This allows vehicles to become lighter, cleaner, and "smart" enough to avoid crashes and traffic jams. Second, automobiles will be linked by a Mobility Internet that allows them to collect and share data on traffic conditions, intelligently coordinates their movements, and keeps drivers connected to their social networks. Third, automobiles must be recharged through a convenient, cost-effective infrastructure that is integrated with smart electric grids and makes increasing use of renewable energy sources. Finally, dynamically priced markets for electricity, road space, parking space, and shared-use vehicles must be introduced to provide optimum management of urban mobility and energy systems. The fundamental reinvention of the automobile won't be easy, but it is an urgent necessity--to make urban mobility more convenient and sustainable, to make cities more livable, and to help bring the automobile industry out of crisis.Four Big Ideas That Could Transform the Automobile• Base the underlying design principles on electric-drive and wireless communications rather than the internal combustion engine and stand-alone operation• Develop the Mobility Internet for sharing traffic and travel data• Integrate electric-drive vehicles with smart electric grids that use clean, renewable energy sources• Establish dynamically priced markets for electricity, road space, parking space, and shared-use vehicles


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The content is intelligent, well laid out, entertaining, understandable, and approachable...Often, works about the future of the automobile industry are just tools to express idealistic beliefs or anti-industry sentiments. This book is refreshing because the authors understand the whole package in terms of current problems, and their solutions, and succinctly present a glimpse of a future (and a present) that people can feel good about." C.J. Myers Choice



"In this book, William Mitchell, perhaps the greatest urban theorist and designer of the Information Age, provides a concrete alternative to the unsustainable model of urban transportation based on the traditional automobile, and paves the way for the transformation of the automobile industry as a whole. In this time of crisis Reinventing the Automobile is mandatory reading, besides researchers and students, for planners, industrialists, and governments searching for a way out for the car of the industrial era."--Manuel Castells, Professor Emeritus of City Planning, University of California, Berkeley



"Our American auto industry is at a perilous crossroads - it can adhere to the 'old ways' and perish or it can leapfrog the competition, reinvent itself, and lead the automotive world into the 21st century. Many of the ideas set forth in this book just might serve as a blueprint for this much-needed and important change of direction. Who better to lead the way than our geek brethren from MIT?"--Tom and Ray Magliozzi, aka "Click and Clack," Hosts of Car Talk

(Tom & Ray Magliozzi)

"We are at the threshold of a new era of urban transport. Reinventing the Automobile offers a breathtaking vista of the opportunities ahead. Mitchell, Borroni-Bird, and Burns combine their great engineering expertise, design skills, and practical experience to create a dazzling vision of a new urban transport system to support healthy, productive, safe, and environmentally sustainable cities in the 21st century. The book is consistently exciting, a wonderful chance to peer over the shoulders of masters as they sort through the complex terrain of energy systems, urban lifestyles, digital connectivity, and cutting-edge automotive engineering. This book will fascinate and inspire not only specialists in transport and engineering, but everybody interested in the new age of sustainable development." Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. Special Advisor to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon

(Jeffrey D. Sachs)

"Finally, a book that addresses the problems of carbon emissions, sustainability, transportation, city planning, and traffic, by authors who understand what the automobile industry does not -- that these issues are all interconnected and part of the same picture. This book has a great deal to offer to anyone who is interested in the green movement in architecture, in city planning, in traffic problems, in pollution, and in the challenge of making our planet more humane." Frank Gehry



"Our American auto industry is at a perilous crossroads -- it can adhere to the 'old ways' and perish or it can leapfrog the competition, reinvent itself, and lead the automotive world into 21st century. Many of the ideas set forth in this book just might serve as a blueprint for this much-needed and important change of direction. Who better to lead the way than our geek brethren from MIT?" Tom and Ray Magliozzi, aka "Click and Clack," Hosts of Car Talk



"We are at the threshold of a new era of urban transport. Reinventing the Automobile offers a breathtaking vista of the opportunities ahead. Mitchell, Borroni-Bird, and Burns combine their great engineering expertise, design skills, and practical experience to create a dazzling vision of a new urban transport system to support healthy, productive, safe, and environmentally sustainable cities in the 21st century. The book is consistently exciting, a wonderful chance to peer over the shoulders of masters as they sort through the complex terrain of energy systems, urban lifestyles, digital connectivity, and cutting-edge automotive engineering. This book will fascinate and inspire not only specialists in transport and engineering, but everybody interested in the new age of sustainable development." Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Special Advisor to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon

About the Author

William J. Mitchell was the Alexander W. Dreyfoos, Jr., Professor of Architecture and Media Arts and Sciences and directed the Smart Cities research group at MIT's Media Lab. He authored many books, including The World's Greatest Architect (2008) and Placing Words: Symbols, Space, and the City (2005), both published by the MIT Press.

Christopher Borroni-Bird is GM's Director of Advanced Technology Vehicle Concepts. His innovative projects at GM include the AUTOnomy, Hy-wire, and Sequel concepts and the current Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility (P.U.M.A.) initiative. He was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame as a Young Leader in 2000.

Lawrence D. Burns advises companies, governments, and universities on transportation, energy, and communications systems and technology. As Vice President of Research and Development at General Motors from 1998 to 2009, he was a major global voice for the reinvention of the automobile and the diversification of transportation energy, overseeing a series of innovative concept vehicles.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (January 29, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262013827
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262013826
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 8.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #745,899 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Transporting reading May 17, 2010
Format:Hardcover
This is a wonderful book to stimulate one's thinking about the future of the automobile and urban transportation. Even if you are skeptical about some elements of the authors' vision, it is likely to enrich your understanding of how technology, design, functionality, and economics interact. Reinventing the Automobile is clearly written, supported with ample attractive and helpful graphics. There is a bit of repetition, though it is probably desirable to help explain synergies among several of the key concepts.

The authors explore four principal ideas: a radical new "DNA" in the design of small urban vehicles (driven by wheel motors, for example); a "Mobility Internet" to help manage traffic flows and promote safety; clean energy, with vehicles powered by electricity and hydrogen; and dynamically priced markets. Most of their discussion centers on two-seaters, either "neighborhood electric vehicles" or "electric city cars" with more range.

These vehicles will not be designed to achieve high speeds, which permits greater flexibility in structure, surfaces, and glazing. Elimination of the engine and the application of "by-wire" technology make it possible to imagine new shapes, and in one design even possible to "fold-up" the vehicles so that they occupy less parking space. Based on an electric "skateboard" chassis the vehicles are modular with relatively few parts, easier to construct and repair.

The authors suggest several applications of information technology to aid drivers, some of which can and do work quite well in cars today (GPS-based navigation systems, devices that receive information about traffic to assist routing, and safety sensors, for instance). More futuristic is their vision that eventually vehicles will be safely self-guided.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great little car - but will I get to work quicker? October 5, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
What would cars be like if they were optimized for urban use, taking maximum advantage of technology? They would be much smaller, designed for the typical load of one or two people. They would be safe due to sensors and software and would lack the heavy "armor" of crumple zones and steel cages. They would be energy-efficient zero-emission electric vehicles. They would be as helpful and informative as iPhones. The authors make a convincing case that these cars are possible with today's technology, and that cities would be cleaner, safer, and would need less space dedicated to parking lots and roads.

The problem with this "small is beautiful" vision is that it will be hard to sell it to most Americans, who are used to getting more, not less. But what if these little cars actually got you to your destination sooner, because they could go on tracks that bypassed intersections and congestion, and because they could augment their battery with power supplied by the road? In that case, even a Texan might want one. The Third Generation Roadway by Roger Davidheiser describes such a system, based on the same small cars described in "Reinventing the Automobile" but with the addition of an interface for a dedicated track, or "Roadway." I recommend that these two books be read together.

Their styles are different. "Reinventing the Automobile" reads like a PowerPoint presentation by a design professor, and "The Third Generation Roadway" reads like a master's thesis by an engineer. Neither asks nor answers the difficult and divisive question, "Do these improvements in auto technology negate the need for more investment in trains and buses in American-style cities?" But both are important and stimulating attempts to imagine how we will get around in the cities of the fairly near future.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshingly out-of-the-box thinking. A must read! October 20, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Excellent book, refreshingly out-of-the-box thinking, and not so futuristic after all, as three GM EN-V prototypes (Xiao - Laugh, Jiao - Pride, and Miao - Magic) are now being exhibited in Shanghai, and the MIT CityCar prototype is being built in Spain, due for field testing next year in five cities around the world, and already scheduled for mass production by late 2012. The electric driverless car is just around the corner.

In quite a masterpiece of original thinking, the authors deliver a solution for our current model of unsustainable cities by proposing a reinvented automobile, with a new DNA, combined with Mobility Internet and smart clean energy. They proposed ultra-small vehicles (USV) as a solution, an urban car designed for megacities, as opposed to the 20th century solution of designing and adapting cities and their landscape around cars. USVs and their wireless capabilities would allow electronically managed variable pricing systems for roads (congestion pricing), parking, car sharing and even auto insurance. But the most promising new concept is "mobility-on-demand" systems, to efficiently complement public transportation by providing a personal mobility service for the "first mile" and "last mile" of urban trips. Certainly the combination of the proposed schemes would result in a safe, environmentally friendly, affordable, and sustainable solution for the personal mobility needs in urban environments.

Despite the book's futuristic view, Chapter 9 is a must read for both urban planners and traffic engineers, and particularly for the laymen.
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