I have just returned from a few days in Little Rock and since I lived there many years ago the city centre, like many US cities, is starting to come back from the loss of confidence in urban living in the 70’s. However apart from the Clinton Library and some regen of the riverside areas (usual makeover aimed at tourists) it appears to me that there is no radical new architecture or cohesive planning being applied – locals please correct me if I have missed something?
There is a US model to follow – Dallas.
With its recent urban regeneration completions under the generic Urban Re:Vision title – the latest is scheme is a design competition for urban living for otherwise uninspiring one city block (see above) – Re:Vision – this gives rise for optimism about urban planning in US cities away from the usual suspects – Portland, etc. As the Urban Vision people say:
“What if one block in Texas became the sustainable model for the world?”
(of course it would be more relevant if one block in Delhi became the sustainable model for the world, but we get the point…)
Previous competitions include designs for transport, energy, construction. One of those competitions, Re:Route, considered urban transport with a good mix of deliverable schemes and fanciful architects ideas (says the cynical transport planner).
I read about Shai Agassi’s plans for electric cars in Wired last summer and while it is high profile, with big name partners including Nissan Renault, I just wondered whether it was another software millionaire playing with cars (see Tesla as exhibit A). His plans are set out in more detail at betterplace.com , including a high minded vision:
- A world living free from oil.
- A planet healing and thriving.
- And our environment and economy brought back into balance with each other.
The video of his speech is found on TED and it is worth watching for the undoubted enthusiasm – oil free nations such as Israel and Denmark by 2020 is the dream – I am still just a bit cynical (surprise). Key aims are affordable and convenient, no new science, using existing battery tech. Charging points everywhere so you can always charge and easy battery swaps, like gas stations. All good in theory…
What is interesting is the willingness to go with an open source, but standards based infrastructure approach. A lot of the solutions being supported by programmes such as the UK’s Technology Strategy Board Ultra Low Carbon Vehicle Project will play into the hands of monopoly suppliers.
BTW Wired are launching a new UK print version this month – how brave is that? I remember the short lived Wired UK from 1995, but then I was the only subscriber 🙂
Just a quick redirect to an article by Kevin Kelly (not the guy from Long Now, Wired, etc) in Forbes about risk and innovation, which has been a topic I have spent a lot of time on this week. Apart from the references to our old friend Daniel Kahneman (see 18 previous posts) Kelly makes some valid but perhaps a bit general points on the balance between risk and innovation – one bank executive’s innovation is another civil engineers risk, as I might have said to Rod earlier this week.
Kelly says “Everyone is taking, if anything, too little risk.” well yes, but lets explore that…while the points he makes about framing and emotion reflect Tversky and Kahneman, its still a stretch in the current economic situation to feel that corporate risk taking will save the day. Or maybe I misread it – if so I blame the last glass of red wine. I did, however, like this bit:
“How can you as a leader instill a culture that makes your employees wisely embrace risk and figure out new ways to build revenues? Here are three suggestions: (1) Ensure employees see unanimity across the senior team about the firm’s priorities; (2) encourage mistakes. “If you fail, try again. Fail again. Fail better,” said the playwright Samuel Beckett (we can learn a lot from the creative process); (3) make collaboration desirable. Complex problems require collaborative solutions. Where leaders fail to persuade their people to collaborate, ambiguity and competitiveness rush to fill the vacuum.”
Amongst my reading of learned journals – “Coach and Bus Weekly” , “Treehugger Monthly”, “Economics World”, “Which Behaviour” – I await the delivery of Performance Bike magazine each month with great anticipation. They tell me that the new Suzuki GSXR 1000 (“The ultimate evolution of the GSX-R family. Born to be on the track.”) beats the Honda Fireblade (“Stronger Looks. Sharper Performance. Astoundingly Responsive Control.” ) by 0.1 secs. in perfect conditions on a test track. Great.
In Bike magazine, amidst the 600cc race replica shootouts and after a foray into alternative fuels last year ( a Triumph 675 fuelled by apples!) Rupert Paul writes this month about how we could make racing fun again and get great bikes for the next three generations. After describing his vision of the 2016 Estoril GP, with a wide range of competing fuels – methanol, bio-ethanol, batteries, LPG, solar, fuel cell, etc. – he says:
“this is what racing could be like – a feast of competing technologies not seen since the 1920s. All it would take is one rule: to limit every machine to a fixed amount of start-line energy”
This view of the near future is prompted by a paper by Turner and Pearson of Lotus Engineering, home of the Exige 270E Tri-fuel. They recognise that current racing regs, particularly F1, do not encourage fuel savings or alt tech (or social responsibility). If racing really does improve the breed and we get trickle-down then let it lead the charge to new technology.
The TTXGP at 2009’s Isle of Man TT should be the first opportunity to test the theory… hopefully I will be there.
The paper, “The Application of Energy-Based Fuel Formulae to Increase the Efficiency Relevance and Reduce the CO2 Emissions of Motor Sport”, is available from SAE.
Why stop at racing – if all new vehicles had a inception and lifetime energy limit, based on a common megajoule measure, then manufacturers would rethink their fuel strategies pretty quick.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Bikes, Electric, Engineering, Environment, Fuel, Green, Hybrid, Innovation, Motorcycle, Motorsport, R&D, Sustainability
Ah, yes, time for the reviews of the year, and in our specialist area how does transport – general, green, any mode – fare in the analysis, especially in the economic context where eco innovation is:
- Our saviour, or
- Too expensive
The US transport top ten trends from Inhabitat includes the death of the SUV, green cars saving the industry, high performance sports cars saving the planet , (pedal) bikes are cool, etc. The view from over there suggests some naivety about what we achieve in Europe, however. Conclusions for 09: more mass transit and greener cars – thanks, I could have guessed that. Although for mainstream US of A that may be still too radical.
And imagine my disappointment when the electric GM Chevrolet Volt concept car of 2007:
became the boring pre production car shown in 2008 (first deliveries in 2010, kids):
I was not the only one to be disappointed…
But before I pour self righteous scorn on my brothers across the sea what have we identified as worthy of mention in the UK and Europe? What Car votes a turbo diesel Ford Focus as its green car of 2008 and Toyota for its technology. The Eden Project and the Co-op sponsored the sexy green car show in summer 2008. ..and er, that’s it, apart from a few comments on the “fuel crisis” in the review of the year in mags such as New Scientist.
PS thanks to Oxtran to alerting me to “Traffic Jam”, the review of the last 10 years of sustainable transport – which ended up on my xmas shopping list (sad but true).
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Cars, Electric, Electric car, Environment, Fuel, Futures, Green, Innovation, Recession, Sustainability, Urban
Imagine the scene – you get Dan Kahneman, Richard Thaler, Sendhil Mullainathan in a room in California to deliver a master class on behavourial economics, courtesy of Edge. In the audience you have Jeff Bezos, Nathan Myhrvold, Danny Hillis, Ev Williams, George Dyson and other A listers.
6 sessions, with videos and text, plus Q&A. As an example – session 1 – Thaler’s Nudge theory, choice architecture and “libertarian paternalism” are explored – interesting that he was going to call his book “Everything Matters”. I like the phrase “one click paternalism” as well if not the possible negative outcome. Maybe we can get the opt out choice architecture right on our company car share scheme.
While its not an instant fix – behavioral econ rarely is – its worth the investment in time to get up to speed on the basics.
BTW The use of the Enron film title is just me being ironic…
Just like TED there are so many opportunities to enjoy the presentations at the big US “ideas” conferences without putting your name on waiting lists and spending thousands of pounds.
Names at this October’s PopTech include Dawkins, Stephen Pinker, Bruce Sterling, Kevin Kelly and one of my favourites, Stewart Brand (of LongNow fame)- watch his predictions for the next 30 years of environmental action and how cities will develop – the video is here.
“3 kinds of environmentalists – Romantics, Scientists and Engineers.”
“Jesus People against Pollution” an example from over 1 million environmental organisations in the world…
“squatters are the dominant builders in the world today” – one billion live in squatter cities, two billion expected – these are the real green cities because of recycle and reuse, ecological footprint small.
And he is pro nuclear power…
also have a look at Christian Nolds bio mapping presentation – actually watch as many as you can, just choose at random! and start thinking 🙂
PS best geek joke – Bruce Sterling “we need a new word for neologism”
Turning to innovation to rescue us from the recession is a common theme in my business and many others now. But do we understand how we get from A to B (and onto Z) in innovating?
Roland Harwood, of the always thought provoking NESTA blogs, has come up with the “comedy bow tie” model:
Phase A – Lots of potential inputs. New ideas are simply recombinations of old ideas
Phase B – Iterate furiously
Phase C – Breadth of market applications
The middle bit, spinning around until you find the solution, seems pretty true to life, but its still ultimately a version of the funnel model, just with a few more product outcomes.
[Is this a bit geeky?]
btw good to be back, had a blog summer holiday while sorting out business and life…
A new report from NESTA Taking Services Seriously sets out a few ideas on why (some) service industries innovate and most don’t. As we are a service economy (75% of the UK GDP) the concentration on manufacturing R&D has always slightly concerned me – yes we need to develop high value leading edge physical products but where is the future economy going to be built in added value terms?
The exec summary is pretty clear about why this report is needed now:
“Policy could have an important role in stimulating innovation in services. However, policymakers have lacked robust evidence showing how these sectors innovate. Drawing on a survey of more than 16,000 firms, this research reveals the high levels of ‘hidden innovation’ in some services sectors, especially in how they develop new business models and exploit technology. But the research also reveals that innovation is confined to a minority of service firms, and that many lack the skilled personnel or intelligence on markets and technology that would enable them to become more innovative.
Because of their dominance in the economy, improved performance by the UK’s services sectors is necessary if we are to significantly close the productivity gap between the UK and other leading nations. However, if we are to take innovation in services seriously, we must recognise that they innovate differently from advanced manufacturing. We need policies to support increased training and development, and the effective dissemination and exploitation of technology.
At the risk of sounding like a cheerleader, thank god someone is saying this so we can point to it and internally lobby, cajole and encourage real support for innovation through better processes and sharper thinking.