Viridian Note 00243: Community Mobility

Bruce Sterling []

Key concepts
automobiles, ownership, Community Mobility, frog design, sub-cars, smart transit, Dan Sturges

Attention Conservation Notice: It's a 1,000-word essay on cars by Dan Sturges of the design firm Frog, plus a whole lot of links about electric and hybrid vehicles.

Links: Mobility Car Sharing in Switzerland. Global Electric Motorcars, a subsidiary of DaimlerChrysler. The Smart city coupe', plus Smart-ware and Smart-routing. "The latest information on electric, natural gas, hybrid electric vehicles, mobility systems and intelligent transportation systems" (and the Car Sharing and Mobility Services Report). "A worldwide leader in the design, manufacture and marketing of electric bicycles, electric scooters, electric motorcycles. Zero Air Pollution." "When you ride an E-Bike, you are part of tomorrow's crowd; pioneers revolutionizing mobility as we know it. Created by product visionary Lee Iacocca." News about "people and technology, advanced electric drive transportation". UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies. The UC Davis Telecommunications and Travel Research Program. Honda's "Intelligent Community Vehicle System." "Federal agencies' efforts to assist communities to grow in ways that ensure a high quality of life." "The Energy Foundation is a partnership of major foundations interested in sustainable energy. It was launched in 1991 by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and The Rockefeller Foundation. " That loveable, blinky, breathing, Flash-y website of the legendary eco-design network O2.


By Dan Sturges, Director of Mobility, frog design

(((Dan Sturges cheerily remarks: My partners and I created the first Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) in the U.S. Built 700 of them. Went bankrupt. Then a guy bought the tools to build the "B9cars" from the bank for $100K or something and sold the company to DaimlerChrysler for $35 million last year. I'm a freeware guy! Share "Community Mobility" all you want!)))

    The Family Vacation, 2010: Mom and Dad hop into the CityEV and head for the Neighborhood Mobility Center. Normally, Mom uses the CityEV to commute, but as subscribers to their neighborhood's Mobility Club, they consign the little car back to its fleet of subcars. Why pay for a car they won't use for two weeks? At the Mobility Center, they pick up the roomy minivan they reserved online last week. It's one of several conventional, long-range vehicles available to Mobility Club subscribers.

    While there, Dad picks up a delivery at the facility's E-Dock. It's camping equipment and supplies that he ordered last week via the Internet. Then Mom and Dad drive to the school to pick up the kids, and the vacation begins!

    The above scenario illustrates the many overlapping benefits of the new and growing concept of Community Mobility. For everyday errands and commuting, the family uses low-cost, eco-friendly vehicles that are easy to park, as opposed to a high-priced, gas-guzzling SUV. Whenever they need a larger or more specialized vehicle, they reserve one online from their local "car-sharing" center.

    There are no big delivery vans rumbling through their neighborhood making noise and emitting gas fumes. Instead, one van makes one stop at the E-Dock station to deliver packages for everyone in that community.

    Sounds reasonable. And yet while alternatives to conventional modes of transportation have been talked about for 20 years, only now have the elements for a successful and comprehensive car-sharing system been realized. This collection of elements, known as Community Mobility, is growing ever more plausible, thanks to the widespread and growing use of the Internet, new wireless technologies, and the vision and cooperation of some of the world's largest technology corporations.

What is Community Mobility?

    Simply put, Community Mobility links existing modes of transportation (bikes, buses, light rail) with new mobility concepts (subcars, car-sharing). This offers individuals and communities a viable alternative to conventional car use and ownership. If comprehensive systems of Community Mobility were integrated into US suburbs, the negative effects of cars on air quality, energy consumption, land use, economics and civility could all be greatly reduced.

    A highly attractive alternative to conventional car culture, Community Mobility provides greater ease and convenience at lower cost than the current automobile "monoculture." Based on six innovative approaches, Community Mobility is a near-term solution that could use existing technology. These approaches include:

1. Telecommunications
2. Mobility Centers
3. Vehicle Sharing
4. Subcars (NEVs, eBikes, CityEVs and others)
5. Smart Transit
6. E-Docking Stations

1. Telecommunications

The prevalence of home computers, cell phones and PDAs, and the emerging wireless technologies, make many things possible today that were inconceivable even 10 years ago. These tools enable new ways of moving about in the world, by arranging things remotely beforehand.

2. Mobility Centers

Conveniently placed in neighborhoods or downtown areas, these inter-modal centers bring Community Mobility elements together in one location. A car-sharing facility, an E-Dock station, offices for telecommuters, and links to public transit are managed as an integrated unit. A Mobility Center is a gathering place where neighbors often meet face-to-face, much like the post office or general store in small-town America.

3. Vehicle Sharing

Instead of owning a bulky car or SUV, you merely rent it for the time you need it. Daily transport is handled by small, low-cost electrics. "Station cars" combined with public transport can abolish the need for giant parking lots outside train stations. Switzerland currently has the world's largest car-sharing system, serving 800 locations and 40,000 members. Several other European countries have successful car-sharing programs, and in the States, Portland, Seattle and Cambridge have joined the car-sharing club.

4. Subcars

    Sixty to 70 percent of all trips made by single drivers are five miles or less from their home. Small electric vehicles are far more suitable for such trips than large cars and trucks, which spew harmful emissions and cost untold fortunes for fuel and upkeep. For trips within a 15-mile radius of home, a CityEV is ideal, since it runs at 50 and 60 miles per hour and meets all car-crash standards for highway travel. These low-cost subcars can be custom-designed for specific regions or climates, offering regional manufacturing opportunities, and promoting economic development within the community.

5. Smart Transit

Now that a majority of people are familiar with cell phones, mobile PCs and PDAs, both public and private transit can reach new levels of genuine convenience. Tiresome waiting at a bus stop should become obsolete, since commuters can know in real-time where the bus, train or private transit coach actually is. With a web- connected PDA or cell phone, and GPS-wired transit vehicles, people can take charge of their own time. Smart Transit also lets travelers link to station cars, reaching their final destination with greater ease. Smart Transit is an area of incredible growth and possibility that promises more efficient mobility for all.

6. E-Docks

Have you ever had a note from FedEx or UPS on your door, saying they tried to deliver a package when you weren't home? That was a wasted trip for the delivery vehicle. Worse yet, it also requires you to then make another trip to their central facility to retrieve the package.

    With E-Docks, the delivery companies make one stop per neighborhood. Someone is always there to sign for your packages, which you then pick up at your convenience (for less cost than home delivery). Four new E-Dock concepts are being tested now in California. A bank of automated locker boxes have been placed in select transit stations. Commuters can exit the train at their station and proceed to their locker box for their packages. The locker's number and combination has been e-mailed to them by the delivery company, earlier in the day.

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