- Series: MIT Press
- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: The MIT Press (January 29, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0262013827
- ISBN-13: 978-0262013826
- Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.5 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,050,110 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Reinventing the Automobile: Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st Century (MIT Press) 0th Edition
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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.(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 & 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)
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)
Mitchell, Borroni-Bird, and Burns have created a blueprint for sustainable urban mobility. Reinventing the Automobile will fundamentally change the way we approach transportation design. Every car company should take note: evolve or face increasing irrelevance.(David Kelley, Founder and Chairman, IDEO, and Professor, Stanford University)
It isn't technological barriers so much as closed minds that are holding back the necessary evolution of the automobile; using calm and devastatingly inarguable logic, this is a virtual step-by-step manual that deploys an original idea on every page to show exactly how it can and should be achieved. If you care about cars, read this book: it opens your mind and lets the future in.(Bruce McCall, artist and writer The New Yorker)
Visionary in its totality, it is also soberly realistic.(Peter D. Norton Metascience)
Presents a fascinating and challenging model of technological possibilities.(Martin Wachs Issues in Science and Technology)
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. Christopher Borroni-Bird is GM's Director of Advanced Technology Vehicle Concepts. Lawrence D. Burns advises companies, governments, and universities on transportation, energy, and communications systems and technology. He was Vice President of Research and Development at General Motors from 1998 to 2009.
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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.
Current information technology can also support dynamic pricing applications. Chips that allow toll road access priced differently by time of day are just one simple example. Another that I found intriguing (and seemingly quite feasible already) applies sensors in parking spaces to notify drivers of availability, perhaps with the more desired spaces priced higher to reflect supply and demand.
One section presents an informative discussion of "fractional possession" systems with shared cars available for use on demand (these exist on a small scale in several cities today). The authors show how these systems can be greatly enhanced by dynamic pricing and, especially, when vehicles are able to travel autonomously to distribute themselves to points of need.
There are several important limitations to the authors' ideas. Most obvious is that there will still be a pervasive need for vehicles that are bigger than two-seaters -- family cars, trucks, buses, and so on. How will roadway systems safely accommodate the small guys (not designed to endure impacts with big guys), for instance? Or how can electronic vehicle interconnection work adequately unless nearly all vehicles are appropriately equipped? The authors suggest roadway separation, but that could require a massive infrastructure investment and consume even more space than required for transportation currently. They recognize that there is a chicken-and-egg problem inherent in the infrastructure needs: for example, that unless a widespread charging network is in place many people will be reluctant to use electric vehicles, but that without wide use development of such networks may not be economically feasible.
They offer an outline on how to reach their vision from here, but for the most part it consists of only broad principles and not specifics. The most useful guidance they provide, in my opinion, is that we should build on those "foothold " elements that have already been tested (for example, various kinds of electric and fuel cell electric vehicles, wheel motors, telematics systems, road pricing, bike and car sharing, etc.) and continue to look for synergies among them.
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.