Class 1 response (Mobility on Demand Systems)

Intelligent urban system

Smart trash receptacles

The BigBelly Solar trash compactor is a "smart" receptacle that makes garbage collection more efficient by 1) increasing the density of the garbage to be picked up and 2) providing the status of its current capacity electronically.

Basic feedback loop

  1. Receptacle accrues garbage
  2. Receptacle capacity monitored by city
  3. If receptacle near maximum capacity, city collects garbage

Form of governance

The receptacles are created by BigBelly Solar and controlled by the city government. The city government expects that the use of these receptacles will reduce inefficiencies and cost of garbage collection. Stakeholders include:
  • BigBelly Solar (desire publicity for its product)
  • City government (desire to recoup their investment and improve eco-friendly image)
  • Citizens (desire improved system of garbage collection)

In practice

These particular receptacles have drawn criticism for the fact that they require the user to touch a handle on the receptacle, as opposed to ordinary garbage receptacles with an open top. This has caused a backlash against the use of the receptacle, even though the handle issue seems at a glance to be extremely superficial. Citizens have voiced concerns that it improves the aggregate garbage collection at the expense of the citizens' health (i.e. touching the surface of the receptacle could lead to illness).

Driverless cars as a mobility on demand solution

While I think driverless cars are important in the development of autonomous/intelligent vehicles in general, I don't think they are a great solution for improving urban mobility. They may seem like a natural choice given the configuration of most cities, but I believe that there are even better options if we were to consider alternative urban architectures.

The fact that urban space is made of roads greatly limits the imagination when dealing with mobility, especially the last-mile problem; that is, how to travel the last mile of your journey to a destination. If we created more urban space in which roads didn't exist, we could develop new locomotive mobility systems (e.g. moving walkways) that allowed us to move our own bodies freely through urban space without needing an external vehicle.

If all taxis in NYC were replaced with driverless analogues, we would still have many of the same problems, like traffic, refueling, pollution, and safety. However, if the number of roads was reduced, and focus was instead turned toward creating space for humans instead of automobiles, we could reduce the need for the latter and provide a more fulfilling environment for the former.

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