In a series of charming essays, Geoff Wardle imagines the total mobility package of 2032, laying out the estimated zigs and zags of a decade hence and explaining how it will be accomplished. In the entries so far posted on Medium, he and his wife, Lyn, have gone everywhere but their moon base.
Wardle runs the Graduate Transportation Systems and Design program at ArtCenter College of Design, in Pasadena, California. Like so many of us, he grew up transfixed by cars, trucks, trains, boats, and planes.
Did he mention tractors?
He devoted his career to automotive design and education with a focus on good-looking cars and the cohesion of sustainable systems.
Finding himself in the mood to write this past summer, Wardle addressed the topic of mobility by a subscription-based service. It’s the sort of program that Lawrence D. Burns laid out in his 2018 book “Autonomy: The Quest to Build the Driverless Car–and How It Will Reshape Our World.”
Burns and co-author Christopher Shulgin write, “We are entering a new age of automobility, which redefines the freedom provided by today’s automobiles, promising better mobility for more people at lower cost.” The discussion is based around shared fleets that offer the present standard of convenience while dramatically reducing cost-per-mile for the consumer and, incidentally, the number of vehicles on the roads: a benefit to public and environment.
Having less traffic also happens to allow for the reconfiguration of cities.
Wardle cranks up his perfervid imagination to create a fictitious service, called goEZ, which proffers a Total Mobility Package (TMP).
We learn that “goEZ is a consortium of a large multi-national automobile manufacturer and a large technology company that it worked with to enable its vehicles to drive themselves,” he explains. “It competes in the mobility marketplace with several other providers, each pushing their own brand values and identities.”
By 2032, happy with the goEZ TMP, they resubscribe for two years. The monthly fee provides credits for discretionary use. If you choose to go to the market on a scooter, it costs a few credits. Select an SUV instead and spend more credits.
The ideal choice for many journeys is a pod car like the erstwhile Google Firefly, which reminds me of a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe.
A busy guy in 2022, Wardle expresses “a continuing feeling of running up a down escalator with the occasional hot-air gun applied for good measure.”
He may sweat, but his hair stays fabulous.
Still frantic ten years from now, he finds himself in downtown L.A. after a meeting and summons a fully automated urban runabout (as seen above). The Society of Automotive Engineers likes the use of “automated” instead of “autonomous,” and so does Wardle, whose primary training was in mechanical engineering at the University of Hertfordshire.
“Counted by mobility units, this particular vehicle is the most economical form of personal, enclosed mobility that my TMP offers,” he writes. “It is electrically propelled, thus clean, quiet and highly energy efficient.”
The little car shows up at his location, scans him, signals recognition, and he gets in. Destination: Glendale: another meeting. He gets out there, and the runabout assesses whether he held too tightly onto his chocolate bar and stained the seat, dashboard, and windshield–once again–in which case it takes itself in for cleaning at an abandoned Ford dealership.
Credits are docked by goEZ against the user who now is known internally as The Chocolate Wonder.
Meanwhile, he’s finalizing plans to travel from Pasadena to Palm Springs the next day. It has something to do with unspecified “collectibles.” Instead of a runabout, a sleek single-seater is the order of the day. Like every other vehicle in this tale, it also relies on battery-electric propulsion. Wardle judges this “a planetary win” and notes that “global vehicle-battery production has now scaled up after initial, geopolitical turmoil in the mid-twenties caused some difficult bottlenecks in their required materials and supply chain.”
By 2032, there is little congestion along Interstate 10. Automated vehicles flow along together as if choreographed by MGM.
The amazing thing is, having consumed too much coffee, Wardle begs his virtual concierge for relief and finds something like a dedicated rest area along the freeway instead of having to sneak into a McDonald’s bathroom.
Not only does he make it back to Pasadena for dinner, but he also snoozes during the journey.
The next day, Wardle, who needs to take up golf, is instead flying with Lyn in a four-person automated air taxi to San Luis Obispo. The couple board six miles from home at the small El Monte airstrip, joining another pair of travelers who started in Fullerton after partying all night in Costa Mesa and smell of garlic, gin, basil, and puke.
What a commitment of credits is required for this odiferous public transportation experience! But Geoff and Lyn piled on extra points from the indignity of scooters and runabouts and are rolling them into SLO.
It’s a terrific formula. However, as good as this sounds–quick service over 190 miles between cities that have no direct air–who else besides early adopters would go in a passenger drone?
My associate Kristen Cart from our blog http://www.ourgrandfathersgrainelevators.com has flown cargo planes since her degree in aerospace engineering at Colorado U. and Navy days across the Pacific in the C-130 Hercules. She then joined UPS and used to pilot 747s on international routes but now stays in North America and the Caribbean in the A320.
Kristen has said “never” to the question of automated airliners. What about passenger drones?
Summoning her considerable dignity she says, “My default question will always be, What do you do when it breaks? Trust me, it will. And with gravity involved, you are going to need a pilot.”
Gravity: the merciless intercessor.
Any airborne electric vehicle already overcompensates for its bellyful of batteries. By adding a pilot, the passenger rating could dip to three and even if the goEZ drone is programmed to play Straighten up and Fly Right inside the cabin, it won’t be making any money.