Ijaw Dictionary Online

How Automobiles Work


Translator: Minru (May) Wang
Reviewer: Zihan Zhao-Holland 7 am, Monday, on a freeway in Los Angeles, A driver makes a last-second dash
for the exit ramp, cutting across 3 or 4 lanes of traffic. Two cars have to brake really hard to avoid hitting it. This causes a tailback, a chain reaction of braking, until 20 cars behind. Somebody perhaps not paying attention, or tailgating, or both, rear-ends the vehicle in the front. Nobody is hurt, but the two vehicles rolled to a halt, and the vehicles in the lane behind also grind to a halt as well. Then they try to peel off to the lane to the left and to the right to get around the obstacle, and before we know it, like an areterial thrombosis, we have a two-mile tailback, and one of those sig-alerts that we dread hearing on our morning commute. Unfortunately, I am at the back of that two-mile tailback. I’m on my way to LAX Airport for a flight to the Bay Area for a business meeting. And now I’m really stressed. I’m in danger of missing my flight. There’s nothing I can do about it. I just sit there, grind my teeth, and hope that I’m going to get
to the airport in time. Eventually I do get to the airport, where I have to leave my car in a dingy parking lot, take a smelly elevator down to the ground floor, where, with some difficulty, I clamber up into an archaic shuttle bus, which takes me to the chaos
of the airport terminal. And I’m not even going to show you the inhumanity and suffering that goes along through check-in, security, and then, elbowing my way onto a crowded airplane, (Laughter) because I’m sure you are already
too familiar with it yourselves. Needless to say, when we landed the other end, and I check out my rental car, it spank into the slow, crawling grind of freeway traffic again, only this time, in the Bay Area. (Laughter) Eventually I do get to my appointment
on time, but I’m tired; I’m stressed; and frankly I don’t really feel like
doing business anymore. So this sounds like “chaos theory”. Well, it is, and we need to banish chaos theory from our transportation. It’s too stressful. It’s too uncertain. And it’s 2015. We really need to do a much better job than we are. And here’s another reason why we need to do a better job of our future transportation. This planet of ours, Earth, is this wonderful, amazing, beautiful, self-organizing, self-balancing ecosystem. And in the last few hundred years alone, mankind has succeeded in dangerously unbalancing this system to the point where our very existence
is under threat. This is the real reason why we need to radically rethink and remap our transportation systems. But we are on the cusp of exciting developments. Technology is rapidly bringing us automation to our transportation – our trains, our trucks,
and our automobiles. And automation has the possibility of removing chaos from our transportation by removing that unpredictaible
human element. If we look at the jigsaw puzzle of transportation that we have today, there are clearly some missing pieces. And I have spent my career professionally, and in my teaching, trying to identify what those missing pieces are. And I’ve come to the conclusion that there is one particularly crucial
missing piece, which I am going to explain to you, and that the root-most importantly
of this missing piece is the fundmatmentals of design process. But first, I want to talk to you about a couple of challenges that we have. If you look at the modes of transport that we are familiar with today – railroads, shipping, aviation,
the automobile – these industries all started from a different point in history. They’ve evolved into their own unique cultures, industrial cultures, and their silent cultures. Their cultures which regard each other
suspiciously, and those “competitors”
rather than “collaborators”. They are tired industries. they are from the 19th century
and the 20th century, and we are looking at the 21st century. A political system that’s tired, and some people would say it’s broken, which means, unfortunately, that we are left with 19th century and 20th century
infrastructure to deal with. But then, if we do get a chance to develop a new transportation system, there are lots and lots
of different stakeholders involved. There are politicians; there are government agencies; there are engineers; there are lobbyists… Just to name a fraction of them. They all squabble. They all have competing agendas. So you only have to look at, for instance, the high-speed-rail initiative
in California to understand how having stakeholders that can’t agree
on it with each other is very much hindering our progress. And, by the way, who is the most important stakeholder
of all? It’s us, the end user. And when was the last time
anybody asked you what your needs and aspirations were for a high speed connection between Northern and Southern California? What we’d really need, is a grand, unifiying, system for the design of our
transportation systems, and for the end result. I’ve been asking myself: what would happen if we design transportation for the future using a collaborative process rather than in an exercise of combat. I’ve been looking at other fields
and other industries to see where there might be collaborative processes
for coming up with solutions, and it turns out that there are. And a really good example is from our friends, Eric JPL, who used an extreme collaboration process
called Team X to design the complex space machines
that you’ve just seen. And they do it repeatedly. And they do it really successfully. I’ve also looked at the design processes that we use when we are designing, and what all happens if we can expand these processes from just designing products, or services, or experiences, and expand them to designing complex transportation systems
in the future. Putting all of these things together, I realize that there was this one critical
missing piece to developing and remapping
our transportation systems, and it is the collaborative process. So I’m going to explain to you how I believe that this process works based on what I’ve learned from the likes of JPL. Imagine, if you will, a transportation project which is being planned by, say, a state, or a regional or city government,
city agency. Before this agency even dares
to start arguing about whether it’s going to include bus rapid transit, or subways,
or hyperloops, or whatever it is, what they need to do, is to assemble a small team of experts in transportation and related fields who I will call the “core vision team”. And the design and designers will be the core of this core vision team. They task, though, will not be to design the solutions, but it will be to do
what designers instinctively do whenever they start a new project, and that is to frame up the problem, to really establish what the goals of this system
are going to be; do appropriate future studies so that they can understand what the probable futures are that this system is going to live in. And then identify all of the stakeholders that will need to be involved – and of course, especially the most important
stakeholders, which is us, the end users. And then they are going to establish what the performance standards
will be for this system. No solutions, but framing it all out. Their next job will be to identify, from around the world
or around the country, experts to represent each of those stakeholders
that they’ve identified. And these experts have to be
highly regarded in their field, and they have to have the experience to be able to make
extremely important decisions on behalf of their stakeholders
that they represent. I’m going to call this the “concept team”. And the reason that these concept team members are going to have to be able to make important decisions,
and also under pressure, is because they are going to be asked
to participate in an extreme collaboration process. This process will be about a 1-week event where they’ll be convened and facilitated by the expert moderator. They’ll be put through an iterative process
of intense discussions, intense collaborative processes, breakout sessions, working by themselves very hard, and they each will have a work station
which is highly networked, so that everybody can share information. And they’ll have, around the walls, some smart boards, so that there they can see the progress they make. And it might sound like a rather
chaotic process, but the secret is actually
in the moderation. So, the beauty of this, if we can design transportation systems using these collaborative processes, we end up with something
that we don’t have now, and that is, we get agreement across
all the stakeholders, about how the process,
and how the system is going to work. And once we’ve got that agreement, we can move forward
with everybody agreeing, as opposed to today, where everybody’s at each other’s throats. I mentioned that this is a huge opportunity
for the design community, and here’s the reason: the process that I’ve described is actually the process
that we use in design every day, but on steroids. So designers need to be
all over this process. Also, designers are very good
at working across different disciplines; we are good at translating the language
of one discipline to another. Also, designers are very good
at visualizing the facts, the data, the ideas, and the concepts that come out of these sections
in a format which the eventual important decision makers
can understand even though they are not
subject experts themselves. So, what happes if we were able to put these processes into a fact, how would that affect my journey
to the Bay Area in, say, 2030? Well, in 2030, I believe
I won’t own a car anymore – well, at least not my everyday car. Instead, I will subscribe monthly to what I will call
a “total mobility package”. And this total mobility package means that I pay according to how much I want to pay each month; I receive mobility credits, and I can use these credits to access all of the different
transportation requirements I have in a month. So, a day before I make my trip
to the Bay Area, I log onto
my total mobility package provider, and start mapping out my journey: where I have to be, when I need to get there, my preferred modes of transportation, and, of course, when I need to make the return trip. Soon, an itinerary is sent back to me
for my approval. I read through it – it looks good, and I accept it. At 9 o’clock the next morning, I get a message from my provider to remind me that in 15 minutes’ time, a car will come to my office, and pick me up to take me to the airport. Sure enough, at 9:15, as get onto the sidewalk, a sleek-looking, single-seat vehicle
arrives at the curbside. There is no driver,
because this car can drive itself. The door slides open, and a voice greets me by name, and I put my baggage in the space
behind the seat. I get in, and belt up. Now, this vehicle is an object lesson in being the right tool for the job. It’s big enough and comfortable enough to take me and my baggage to the airfield, but it’s no bigger than it needs to be; it uses no more resources than it has to, no more energy to movement. The right tool for the job. Soon, we get into the LA traffic, which, in 2030, is collaborative, because it’s largely automated. And we smoothly and silently
go to the airport. However, we’re not going to LAX,
this time. We are going to a small local airfield,
El Monte, which happens to be close to my office. Threading our way through the traffic
is a breeze, and I can think about my journey,
and not the driving. When we arrive at the El Monte airport, the car takes me directly to a waiting airtaxi. This is airtaxi,
which is a battery-electric vehicle, also is autonomous – there is no pilot, and there are two passengers
already in it, waiting to take off. I slip my baggage into the cargo haul, a green light informs me that the weight of the baggage and the position
is within the limits. I get into the aircraft, join my fellow passengers. The door closes and locks behind me. An aircraft inspector does a last-minute pre-flight check, and then we are on our way, silently cruising up to the runway. A few minutes later we are airborne, and, 90 minutes later, we are over San Francisco, just before we land at another local airfield quite close to my final destination. When I get out of the aircraft, there, waiting for me is an automated shuttle, sent to me by the company that I’m visiting. I climb in. It greets me, confirms my appointments, and then, 50 minutes later, I’ve arrived at the corporate campus. This time, I arrive refreshed, relaxed, and ready to do business. And, by the way, this journey took just over 2.5 hours, whereas in 2015 it took me nearly 7 hours. So, I believe that if we go from combat and chaos to collaboration and connectivity, we can achieve these seamless kinds of transportation
in the future. Now, obviously, I’ve only been able to touch the tip of the iceberg in explaining this process to you because of time, but I do believe that this crucial missing piece is the solution to our seamless transportation and remapping for the future, and I really appreciate you listening to me. Thank you so much. (Applause)

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