Currently viewing the tag: "Carbon Neutral"
The South Florida International Auto Show kicked off this past Friday. GM unveiled a Hybrid Cadillac Escalade with much fanfare and was showered with awards from Sobre Ruedas (including “Best Vehicle of the Year” for the 2008 Chevy Malibu, which has a hybrid option). We won’t trouble you with too many car details, but the important thing was the chance to have a few words with Troy Clarke, president of GM North America. He outlined the goal of GM’s hybrid strategy: to electrify the car (presumably with plug-in hybrids) in order to allow a distribution network to be put in place before another all-electric vehicle is released. Quite the turnaround from their previous electric car exploits.
Since GM sponsored the winning vehicle of the DARPA Urban Challenge, we asked whether they would incorporate any technology from the race into future cars. Clarke said the point of sponsoring Carnegie Mellon was indeed to look at the technology. He then focused on connected vehicles that communicate with each other for safety and network to the driver’s home to deliver things like music. He steered away from the subject of communicating with infrastructure like the road itself and focused on cars communicating with cars. GM is a car manufacturer, not a road builder, so vehicle infrastructure integration may have to be pushed by someone else.

Clarke also highlighted the current connectivity option that is supposed to become standard in all GM products: On-Star. With features like the Stolen Vehicle Slowdown, the system is already controlling many basic operations of the car. He touted the On-Star system as their current offering of a connected vehicle. Surprisingly, he made no mention of adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, or other active safety features available in luxury GM models. He did remind us that most such technology begins life in luxury cars and filters down to the others once it has been proven good on the market.

It will be a long time before production vehicles achieve full automation. Until that time, On-Star and active safety systems are computerizing things and leaving in the human interaction ingredient. Looking at the theft slowdown feature, it seems like cars would be able to slowdown and stop at red lights if a few more controls were added; but stolen vehicles are only getting stopped at the command of an On-Star operator. That’s nothing more than remote control—the automation is yet to come. We have to have the computer before we have the artificial intelligence, so their progress with On-Star is at least a step in the right direction. Hopefully, just as with the hybrid strategy, they can get the network and the technology in place and then throw in full automation.

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I was reading through an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune which chronicles the lives of commuters- people living way out in the suburbs (sprawl) and the absurd lifestyles they lead basically centered around absurd commutes. It’s interesting to witness the lengths people will go to in order to fulfill their idealistic view of the “American Dream.” Even more shocking is the amount of time they waste annually, idling in traffic rather than relaxing, spending time with their families, or just interacting in some socially normal behavior outside of their vehicle. I copied the more notable sections of the article below:

The Dunn Brothers coffee chain has “belts” in terms of when its stores open, said company President Chris Eilers.

“Urban stores open about 6:30. First- and second-ring suburbs, 6. And in the outskirts — Elk River, Monticello — it’s 5:30,” he said. “Typically, what sparks it is the number of people who show up before you open, pounding on the door and wanting their coffee.”

It’s an interesting way of analyzing commute patterns but the coffeehouse provides us with a great ruler for measuring sprawl…
That side trip alone can add a half-hour to an already epic daily trek. And it means a staff member from the day care needs to walk the first-grader to school later in the morning, when it opens. Eager would love to arrange to work from home. And she says it “makes me want to cry” to have to crawl into town alongside so many freeway-clogging single-driver cars, when more carpooling and bus rides would speed the trip for all.

Now what Eager, like many suburbanites, fails to realize, is that suburban sprawl makes bus riding and carpooling extremely difficult to implement because most sprawl areas lack a definitive center from where an organized system can be implemented successfully.
But Ardner, the mayor of Mora, sees the stresses that creates. “Truth is, we’d love to have a four-lane road up here,” he said. “If you know anyone whose arm we can twist, we’d love to hear about it.”

But that’s just it, said Johnson. What people do in their own lives to save money, finding a cheaper home farther out, creates costs for society.

“The public massively subsidizes all of this,” he said. The cost of adding lanes in Mora, for instance, would be averaged out across all users, even those driving a lot less. “Just imagine what would happen if we charged people what it costs to live this far away. That’s sort of behind a growing inclination, in Minnesota and elsewhere, to think about taxing mileage rather than fuel, to really calibrate how much you’re using the roads.”

Gov. Tim Pawlenty has talked of moving toward what he calls a “fuel-neutral mileage charge,” partly because new technologies such as electric cars will make it harder to collect revenue from road users. Six states are taking part over the next two years in a major study aimed at experimenting with using onboard computers to gauge roadway use and charge drivers accordingly.

Many megacommuters, partly in response to the cost of gas, are making big adjustments. Toni Roy, coming in from Claremont, in Dodge County, to Bloomington, often stays with her folks overnight. Davis, the Mora commuter who gets but an hour at home at night before turning in, works 10-hour shifts four days a week so she doesn’t have to drive in on Wednesdays, and sometimes trades homes with her city-based sister. She hops an express bus in Blaine many mornings, letting the driver deal with the stress of the trip’s most-congested stretch.

It’s interesting to see the educational contrast in Minnesota’s political scene, an occurrence which seemingly happens far too often across the country. The unwitting and shortsighted local politician seeks roadway expansion as a “viable” solution to his constituents’ needs while the state works on a broader level to reduce emissions and personal vehicular transit…

Some Related News:

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Twice a week or so, I like to scan through the blogroll to see what is going on on the other transit/development blogs around the nation. Here are some articles worth reading:

Tropolism:
The Guggenheim is cracking, its 12 layers of paint are chipping off and a new computer simulated model is here to show us what the facade really looks like.CitySkip:
The new era of Reality TV? Voyeurism, of course. The new HBO Voyeur program can be found here
Streetsblog:
The effects of London’s Congestion pricing:
  • In 2006, around 70,000 fewer vehicles entered the same area each day.
  • Before charging began, some 334,000 vehicles entered the original zone each day.
  • An increase in cycling within the zone of 43 per cent.
  • Congestion Charge generated provisional net revenues of £123m in 2006/07, which will be spent on further improvements to transport across London, particularly bus services.
The Overhead Wire:
Transportation costs get personal as TOW finds that Quicken lacks inputs for non-vehicular dependent transit costs. TOW goes on to confront the absurd cost of car ownership (on average, 18% of Americans’ income) and our uncanny dependency on it…

Telstar Logistics:
The 787 Dreamliner was unveiled on July 8, 2007 on schedule…

Inhabitat:
“…the U.S. House of Representatives has unveiled a plan to become carbon Neutral by the end of its current term. Legislation has also been introduced to make the entire Capitol complex- all 23 buildings- carbon neutral by the end of 2020.”

2020? So much for setting the example…

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