TEDActive Projects Mobility
The TEDActive Mobility Project will explore ways to reduce the cost, time and necessity of driving. We'll look at the barriers to mobilizing local communities, and examine new tools that can make our world more accessible. Join the conversation »
Mobility Project news from the TEDActive Blog:
24 March 2011
Two weeks after our goodbye at TEDActive and our plans to social up our mobility, I wanted to share my efforts so far:
As I was leaving Palm Springs towards LAX I posted an update on Facebook to offer a ride to anybody going my way. Gerardo Betancourt was on his way to LA with a bus, but we missed each other by just a few minutes. Learning: next time I should post my moves earlier.
On my way to London, I managed to sleep for 9 hours straight… the joys of a very intense week! As the plane was landing, I started chatting with a film director from New Zealand next to me, and we ended up sharing a cab to east London. Good one.
On my way to Paris in the Eurostar, I met a chatty Italian lawyer working in the city. Enjoyed a great football chat and ended up exchanging cards. You never know when you need a lawyer I guess. Good one, again!
Finally, as I was going to the airport to pick up my girlfriend last Saturday, I suffered all sorts of delays typical of public transport during weekends in London. For the next airport pickup, I checked Whipcar, the neighbour-to-neighbour car sharing site and there’s a lady close to home who owns a Peugeot 207 that I can borrow 4 hours for £20… Cheaper and more reliable. Good learning.
Still, I haven’t managed to have a chat with my neighbours (after 6 months, it feels a bit wierd to knock the door with a tortilla de patatas to say hello), nor succeeded to chat with anybody in the Tube, or the Bus (Londoners enter in trance when they walk in public transport..). Those will be my challenges for the next two weeks.
best wishes, Luis
09 March 2011
Mobility means different things to different people. It can mean everything from communications, access to information, transportation of goods to the mobilization of governments and organizations through calls to action.
In order to narrow this scope, the brief for the purposes of the TEDActive Mobility project was taken to mean:-
How can we make the world even smaller, more accessible
Technology and communication have already done an amazing job of making the World smaller, more accessible. So in our look at mobility, we specifically turned our minds to transportation, especially in terms of people.
So how does one make the World smaller and more accessible from a human transportation point of view? We might conclude that we need to:-
1 Build faster planes
2 Double the width of highways
3 Restructure aging public transport infrastructure
But given we had a total of 4 days, and were tasked with producing an output of a “microaction” none of the above were considered particularly practical.
So the brainstorming, led by the inimitable Luis Cilimingras of IDEO London and Jerri Chou from Lovely Day, that followed over the 4 day period ultimately led to a lot of Post-it notes of small ideas, themes and stories related to the needs of people transporting themselves from A to B.
This type of brainstorming activity, between 10 or so people that have never met each other before, but having a commonality (the love of TED talks) itself was an interesting social process. When looking back at some of the Post-it note themes now, what is interesting to see is that almost all of them relate to some form of community or social ethos.
Sharing came up a lot. Luis started to speak about it on our blog and the conversation kept on going. One of the problems with the car sharing paradigm is that people can feel uncomfortable sharing their personal space, especially with a stranger. The antithesis of what “social” and “community” are meant to represent.
How do we solve that?
Despite the majority of our group being either technologists or in some way connected to technology, thoughts started to turn to the old-school philosophies of social and community – real people being connected in a very real way, person to person. Borrowing a cup of sugar from a neighbour or offering a ride to a hitch-hiker.
When we debated this, a sense of order started to fall out of the chaos of all these Post-it notes. In our quest to “make the World smaller”, and the advances in technology and communications over the last couple of decades, are we at risk of losing some valuable social skills? We can talk about systems like Facebook and Twitter, which are social in their nature of enabling human interactions, but what is the quality of those interactions? You can have a conversation or interaction with someone on the other side of the World, in 140 characters. That’s great, but is that really a quality interaction?
So maybe our quest of “making the World smaller” is flawed. As a race we have an incredibly rich and diverse tapestry of cultures which are born from the social interactions that we have and the communities that we create. Every culture has its unique identity, folklore, language and context. We think it unlikely that anyone will ever look back on a Twitter conversation that they had and feel the same way that they might about a story that was told to them by someone in person, with context, language, folklore and identity.
So we decided instead that we should celebrate the fact that the World is big. Rather than try and make it any smaller, and without the time or cash to make a supersonic passenger jet in 4 days, we concentrated our thoughts on themes that might improve the quality of mobility and not the speed of covering distance. Make people bigger.
Without this improvement in quality and in social and community interaction we believe the problem of otherwise great ideas like car sharing will never be fully solved. So the first step, in our conclusion, is to encourage people to engage with their local community. If you get to know your next door neighbour, how much more likely would it be that they will naturally offer you a lift next time they’re driving in your direction?
The distilled essence of our 4 days of brainstorming is the following:-
We encourage the TED community to “Social Up” and engage more with their local community. This can be as simple as getting to know your neighbour that you’ve lived next to for years but have never spoken to or getting together with a mate and taking a journey together on the subway. Make mobility a social experience.
We move because we need social interactions, should we start making our movement more social?
It is our belief that this is a critical first step to making concepts like car sharing a practical reality. As Greg Anderson put it:-
“It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”.
By Dean Elwood
07 March 2011
If we move to be social; how can we make our moves more social?
Here’s our microaction: SocialUp; make your transportation a social interaction
+Speak to your neighbours and get to know them better. Perhaps they work close to your office.
+Tweet out when you are going somewhere, or facebook your destination, so you can have a nice chat while at it.
+Speak to an stranger in public transport…
Get creative about how you do it, but we ask that you take at least one new action in the next 10 days. Then share your action with us using the tag #TEDActiveMOB #SocialUp and/or share your story with the TED community by emailing it to email@example.com with SocialUp in the subject line.
Many thanks everybody for your help,
03 March 2011
I thought I might write a follow up post to the one from earlier today following some excellent and highly relevant TED talks, in particular from Bill Ford and Salman Khan.
Clearly Bill Ford is on to something. Having recently been in cities like Lagos and New Delhi, traffic is becoming a major impediment to mobility. Whilst I certainly agree with his thesis on “smart” roads and cars that talk to each other – as a solution to the growing traffic problem (and indeed a major contributor to pollution – my project colleague Luis Cilimingras gave an excellent TEDYOU talk on how driving slower than 30 miles per hour creates significant inefficiency from a fuel economy perspective), he did not dwell enough on the need for more efficient and widespread public transport. This is probably self serving but the reality is that we are in a world that will be 10 billion people in our own lifetime, the only way to create sustainable mobility is through mass transportation systems and not to encourage further use of cars on roads. You only need to see the effect of the metro in New Delhi and Bangkok to understand how important this is. The car industry needs to reinvent itself (in much of the same way that Nokia did by moving from pulp and paper production to mobile phones) as a purveyor of mass transportation systems promoting efficient, cheap and sustainable mass transit systems. Interestingly, Bill talked about the need for integrated payment systems for mass transit as a precursor to efficient systems (Octopus in HK and Oyster in London) – this touches another powerful point around the mobility of money and how important this is as a part of the wider debate.
As an aside, some of the geo-location services that Bill talked about are not only a reality but our very own project leaders is building a smartphone based application that uses geo-location to get car services in New York to find you rather than vice versa – this makes the entire process much more efficient.
The Salman Khan angle is probably slightly derivative (pardon the pun). If we can create a more efficient distance learning system that augments school systems, then it itself becomes a powerful aid to mobility by connecting peers and teachers across large distances. Salman’s own experience of tutoring his cousins from a distance demonstrated the effect of this. More systems like this will be powerful additions to the social aspect of mobility.
Please come by our workspace (if you are in Palm Springs) and contribute your thoughts to our cause, if you are not here, we welcome comments on the blog or twitter! (#TEDActiveMOB)
02 March 2011
After a few days of interesting and intensive debate with the other project leaders and the fantastic feedback from our fellow TEDsters here at Palm Springs, we are beginning to crystallize some thinking around the entire mobility question.
Perhaps as a starting point, let me give my own thoughts on the subject:
What is mobility? We have had lots of debate around this subject. In my mind we can define this around a number of different “axes”:
- Physical mobility versus Virtual mobility
- Social mobility versus economic mobility
Before we even start to scratch the surface along these axes, perhaps there is even a more fundamental question: What are the basic human needs that are satiated by creating mobility along these axes?
We can start to address this question but even here we need to stratify as the answers are often different depending on the viewpoint you take. For example, the needs that is often different for the developing world from the developed world. Indeed it is very different from a rural context and an urban context. A simplistic approach to this would be to say that “mobility improves the human condition”. I certainly subscribe to this broad approach but for me, we almost need to bring in another TED Project concept into the equation, that of sustainability.
One could argue that creating easy physical mobility is the ultimate solution. After all, what is better than a world where people are free to move around and interact in an unfettered manner? However, that could potentially create a huge carbon footprint and indeed is just not sustainable. Hence we need to get a little bit more granular around this and find a solution that achieves mobility whist being sustainable.
So in my mind, the ultimate outcome would be to use technology to achieve virtual mobility which would be sustainable through a minimal carbon footprint. However, as we all know (and indeed came up in some TED talks yesterday), human beings are ultimately social animals and physical contact and proximity is critical to avoiding the feeling of alienation.
So we can reframe this in this context as follows: We need to take communities from a local context to a global context in a sustainable manner – how do we make communities relevant in a global context whilst minimizing the carbon footprint of mass scale mobility? An obvious response to this would be a greater use of connectivity tools such as social networking. A less obvious response to this would be to create a robust financial inclusion system that brings money to the people rather than vice versa which reduces the need for mobility in an economic context.
I guess where I am going with this is that this is a very complicated question and there is potentially a lot of ground to cover here.
Hence our group decided to focus in on three key concepts/ questions that developed as a result of all the wonderful input from the wider TED Active community:
- How do we empower communities to share resources?
- How do we share mobility needs within a community?
- How do we build collective experiences and emotions?
The third question is indeed the most intriguing. Ultimately we need to satiate the most important human needs as social creatures, and this is indeed about building experiences and emotions. The more difficult part of this is going to be to identify micro actions that can contribute to answering some of these questions. This is where we are now. We encourage you to stop by our workspace and brainstorm with us as we move towards formulating some conclusions.
02 March 2011
It’s that time of year. The TED and TEDActive conferences are in full swing and innovators, creators and thinkers from around the world are coming together to connect and be inspired.
But while it’s easy to be inspired sitting next to people who have traveled to the moon, beat every hand in poker or changed the face of investment for the poor, it’s all the more critical to get these amazing individuals to help turn that inspiration into action.
That’s why I’m honored to be helping with the TEDActive Projects. The goal is to get all the brilliant minds here to tackle some of the world’s grandest challenges. I’m focused on the mobility project, which seeks to answer the question: How do we make the world smaller and more accessible?
The last 24 hours have been a whirlwind of insight, probing, questions and opportunity. We kicked off with an amazing brainstorm among the group leaders for the mobility project. The experts in our group include everyone from my amazing facilitation partner Luis Cilimingras, who brings years of automotive experience to the table, to Internet protocol specialists and mobile innovators and leaders in futures and trends research.
The result so far has been deeper exploration into what mobility is all about, including:
- Questioning the very definition of it and the value of our commonly held understanding of efficiency between point A and B. This then led to a look at the actual quality of experience in getting (or getting to) the place or thing in question, which often hinges on human interactions and social community.
- How mobile connectivity and transfer of information is a massive driver for new opportunities for mobility to make the world smaller or, as one of our members put it so well, “make us bigger.” For example, think about how basic things we travel to get to or to accomplish every day, like education, work, or even currency, could be made mobile, and have been with new technology and developments.
- The beautiful concept of making more “small worlds” came up in our conversation and touched on the benefits of self-sustaining communities and experientially complete urban planning that fulfills human needs for interaction and resources, whether a planned community or just a great museum that has everything needed to enjoy an afternoon.
- Getting back to the basics, we also asked some questions around what the human needs actually are around mobility. What drives people to feel like they need to travel, to move, and what does it mean to be “close”?
These ideas were put out to the TEDActive community in the form of two questions that I’d like to now put out to the wider community: How might we use mobile to facilitate social to make the world more local, and what are the basic human needs around mobility?
These questions have been, and will continue to be, investigated throughout the rest of the conference. The result has already been some amazing dialogue, debate and three-diminutional formulas on what mobility means to us as humans and what action we can all take to translate this into a better quality of life.
Join and follow the conversation at #TEDActiveMob.
02 March 2011
Let’s imagine a society where we don’t pay for transportation, or where the cost of energy associated with moving from one place to the other is free. How would our personal and collective behavior change in regard to mobility?
Let’s now imagine a society where all transportation devices are public and no one would need to own any privately. How would this scenario affect our personal and collective behavior in regard to mobility?
In all possible answers to both questions, we are likely to see transportation as a commodity and very possibly plan to drive or travel more.
But are we going to be more mobile?
Historically, mobility has been associated with freedom and the ability to discover new frontiers. Geographical borders are gradually disappearing and the world is becoming smaller every day, thanks to easier, more affordable travel and ubiquitous access to information.
However, the ability to travel more easily and information ubiquity have not necessarily resulted in understanding other cultures, their knowledge and traditions … and therefore have not truly made the world smaller.
Do we need a new culture of mobility? One that helps us discover, engage, and understand other cultures? Are these cultures local or distant? Are we able to easily interact with one another and share common values or goals?
Our progress is involving more collaborative efforts every day. A culture of emotional and intellectual mobility may very well help us go beyond the borders of simple transportation in space or information navigation. By better understanding the new requirements for collaboration, our understanding of mobility will evolve, and hopefully our efforts and actions will direct us to a socially meaningful way to create wealth and innovation through discoveries of new frontiers.
21 February 2011
Below is a list of the initiatives being taken in regards sustainable mobility:
- Car sharing: Different models to share the use of private cars.
- Public transport: The preference in the use of public transportation instead of private-owned cars.
- Cycling: The use of bicycles as a primary means of transportation.
- 3D virtual development tools: Platforms that drive collaboration among the parties involved in the planning and design of the city, as well as access to the comments by the local community.
- Internet based sharing models: Web platforms that promote ways to share items, such as books, CD/DVDs and even baby clothes.
It might be other initiatives that were not considered in the above list. However, considering that scientists from the University of Maryland were able teleport an atom to a meter away. What should be the priority to invest in teleporting, in relation to the initiatives previously outlined in the list above? Can teleporting solve the problem of sustainable mobility from root?
15 February 2011
In recent months the buzz around renting and sharing and communities making the most of what they have is increasing. Rachel Botsman spoke about the phenomenon of the Rise of Collaborative Consumption in TEDxSydney in May 2010 (http://bit.ly/fhP79j) and went on to co-write a book on it. Last week an article from Wired speaks about “Rentalship is the new Ownership” (http://bit.ly/gf1aLI).
It is exciting to think about how the mobility project could help activate communities to share their mobility resources. Of course sharing cars in its various forms have been around for a while, from hitchhiking to Zipcars, but somehow it hasn’t yet reached mass appeal. Even if you live in a big city it is likely you’ve never experienced it yourself.
In the same way that NeighborGoods or Airbnb work, sharing vehicles has the advantage of increasing the use of something that has already been produced, without the need of wasting more resources than necessary. But in the case of vehicles, the side potential benefits are even higher, reducing waste both in production and operation, and as the movement achieves scale, being able to reduce congestion, that in itself improves the efficiency of our vehicles and the sanity of our minds.
As the article mentions, now we have the tools: building on top of the internet, smartphones and social networks give us both the technological infrastructure and the code of conduct to get communities organized and trustful so we can pass through the tipping point and put the virtuous cycle of smarter mobility in motion.
It would be useful to start the debate prior to our meeting in two weeks time!
Do you have inspiration, experience or a point of view on sharing, borrowing and lending? And on how to make it happen at scale?
14 February 2011
TEDActive is so excited to have PSFK on board as a collaborator for the TEDActive Projects! They have invited their friends to explore, collaborate and act on vital issues raised at TED, and is actively engaging their expert network, the PurpleList, to give their valuable input for the different teams involved with the projects.
Their experts have already joined in on the conversation! Check out their feedback for the following projects!