Posts tagged with "Taxis":

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Can you capture a portrait of a city with a taxi-mounted sensor?

Big data and its purported utility comes with the attendant need to actually collect that data in the first place, meaning an increase of sensing devices being attached to all manner of things. That includes treating many everyday things, from skyscrapers to human beings, as sensors themselves. When it comes to the urban environment, data on air quality, weather, traffic, and other metrics, is becoming more important than ever. However, in general, the sensors that collect this data are fixed, attached to buildings or found in other stable spots. “They’re good in time, but not in space,” said Kevin O’Keeffe, a postdoc in MIT’s Senseable City Lab, in a release from the university. Airborne sensors such as drones, on the other hand, explained O'Keefe,  work well in space, but not in time. To collect greater data that more accurately reflects an entire city—in both space and time—mobile sensors would be needed at street level. Cities already have fleets of mobile devices close to the ground: vehicles. While private cars operate only sporadically, and buses run fixed routes, taxis spend all day and night traversing large swaths of cities. Incidentally, the lab also tried using garbage trucks, but they did not collect as much data as they predicted cabs could. Inexpensive sensors could be attached to taxis to provide researchers and others important data on the on-the-ground status of urban environments. However, to see the viability of this concept, the Senseable City Lab had to first find out just exactly how much ground taxis actually cover. And then, how many sensor-enabled taxis would it take to create an accurate picture of a city's terrain and air quality? By analyzing taxi routes in New York City, researchers discovered that a relatively small number of cars covered a pretty wide territory. It took just ten cabs to cover a third of Manhattan in a single day. And, while one might expect this to be particular to Manhattan and its orderly grid, the researchers also discovered that similar patterns occurred in cities across the world, from Vienna to Singapore. That said, because many taxis travel to similar areas and along high-traffic routes, the number of cabs it takes to cover even greater ground grows quite rapidly. In the case of Manhattan, it takes 30 taxis to cover half the island and over 1,000 to reach 85 percent. To realize the full potential of car-borne sensors, which can reach popular areas as well as underserved ones, O’Keeffe suggested a hybrid approach: placing sensors on taxis along with a few dedicated vehicles, à la Google Street View. The research team hopes that this data will help planners and politicians put together a more realistic idea about how mobile sensing could work in their city, its cost, and potential impacts. The data will also hopefully help cities tailor any mobile sensing projects to their particular needs, and the Senseable City Lab believes that these mobile sensors would be less expensive than traditional options. This research also appears in a paper recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that was co-authored, along with O’Keeffe, by Amin Anjomshoaa, a researcher at the Senseable City Lab; Steven Strogatz, a professor of mathematics at Cornell University; Paolo Santi, a research scientist at the Senseable City Lab and the Institute of Informatics and Telematics of CNR in Pisa, Italy; and Carlo Ratti, director of the Senseable City Lab and professor of the practice in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning. Curious urbanites can check out the accompanying maps and infographics on the lab’s website.
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New York City might limit the number of drivers using ride-hailing apps

Last week, the New York Times reported that New York City officials are “moving to cap the number of vehicles driving for Uber and other ride-hailing services,” amid concerns over congestion, the exploitation of drivers' wages, and the livelihood of the city’s iconic yellow cab drivers. If passed, the legislation would make New York the first major American city to limit the number of for-hire vehicles. A recent report by Schaller Consulting titled The New Automobility: Lyft, Uber and the Future of American Cities suggests that shared ride services such as UberPOOL and Lyft “while touted as reducing traffic, in fact add mileage to city streets.” They are reported to increase congestion on city streets by up to 160 percent. The Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) in total added 5.7 billion miles of driving in the nation’s nine largest metro areas. The rivalry between taxi and Uber drivers has pushed down the price of riding in the city, and there are increasing concerns over the dwindling wages of Uber drivers and the estimated 70,000 app drivers who earn less than the minimum wage. TNCs are known to recruit more drivers than needed to minimize their customers’ wait time. Taxi drivers aren't faring much better; as customers have flocked to app-based rides, drivers have felt the weight economically. Since December, six taxi drivers have committed suicide over their failing businesses. As the city debates the merit and harms being done by app-based car companies, the cap had been suggested by the City Council as a potential solution to these problems. However, the cap may not work as intended. As Streetsblog NYC theorizes, “an Uber ceiling will encourage permit-holders to rent their idle vehicles to other drives who want in.” It is believed that the cap could further dilute driver earnings. Uber and Lyft recently offer an alternative by proposing to create a $100 million fund for the medallion drivers in exchange for doing away with the cap. The Verge reported on the “hardship fund,” which was “summarily rejected” by the City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office. The TNCs are expected to continue to scramble to rally against the bill. The City Council will vote on it next week.
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Uber reveals flying taxi prototype and aims for 2023 launch

Uber’s flying taxi service is one step closer to getting off the ground after the ride-sharing company unveiled its latest flying car concept at their second annual Elevate conference in Los Angeles. The final design isn’t set in stone, but this new prototype is a template for the company’s five manufacturing partners to build off of. Elevate, also the name of Uber’s flying taxi business, wants to let passengers hail a flying car via app and hop from one rooftop sky port to another. Designing a quiet, electric urban helicopter is no small technical feat, and Uber’s latest proposal shows something of a cross between a jet, drone, and helicopter that’s capable of vertical takeoffs and landings (eVTOL). The shuttles will seat four, though they’ll have to be autonomously driven for Uber to make a profit; otherwise two of the seats would go towards a pilot and co-pilot. To make the trips affordable, Elevate will introduce a model similar to Uber Pool, where customers can share a ride that’s going in the same direction and split the cost. Elevate expects its flying cars to hover around 1,000 to 2,000 feet off the ground and travel at 150- to 200-miles-per-hour, and has thrown out several reference models for its aerospace partners, Karem, Embraer, Pipistrel, Aurora Flight, and Bell as platforms to build off of. The latest model, first shown yesterday, would use four sets of stacked rotors for vertical lift and a tail-mounted rotor for thrust. Karem, the latest company to join Elevate, wants to build a working prototype of its eVTOL by 2020 and put them into commercial use by 2023. It might seem ambitious, but it’s a target that Elevate’s other partners are also aiming for. The infrastructure hurdle is another significant challenge that Uber will have to overcome if it really wants to make this system a reality. Besides having to actually develop software for the autonomously flying shuttles (something Uber has struggled with on the ground), the sky ports themselves and an unmanned air traffic control system will need to be built out. Elevate will be getting a bit of a boost in that department, as the company recently teamed up with NASA and the US Army to bring its ridesharing dreams to the sky.
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Taxi of the Day After Tomorrow?

John Liu, New York's City Controller, is set to reject the much hyped "taxi of tomorrow" because it is not 100% handicap accessible. In rejecting the new design Liu claims that it if adopted as the standard taxi for the city it would become "a symbol of exclusion by telling wheelchair users ‘find another ride.' That's not what New York City is about.” I guess Liu is not talking about the present taxi standard the ubiquitous Crown Victoria which has become an iconic symbol of the city for the past decade but is barely accessible by the public. The design for this taxi of tomorrow—the first purpose-built vehicle designed and engineered to serve as a New York people mover—is really the result of three pioneering initiatives from the Design Trust for Public Space: Designing the Taxi, Taxi 07 Exhibit, and Roads Forward. The Design Trust fought to have the design address a whole host of irritating design features of current Gotham taxis but Nissan Design America, the creator of the car, seems to have forgotten about styling and delivered the ugliest mini van imaginable. Lets hope if they do go back to the drawing board and provide an entirely ADA-compliant passenger vehicle they come back with something more stylish. A Turkish car company Karsan has proposed building—in Brooklyn—a wheelchair-accessible taxi that is far more stylish! Cars manufactured in Brooklyn sounds like a great idea!
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Quick Clicks> Splashes, Preservation, and Taxis

Splash House. Graduate architecture students at the Parson's Design Workshop are ready to get to work this summer on a pool-deck pavilion for the Highbridge Park Swimming Pool in Washington Heights--that is, if they can raise enough funds for their project via a Kickstarter campaign. Mammoth has more details on the pavilion. Preservation Month. Richard Layman isn't wasting any time in celebrating National Preservation Month, going on all May long. He has collected 33 ideas for an action-packed DC-based month of preservation. Taxi of the Future. WNYC's Transportation Nation reports on the city's choice of Nissan to build the Taxi of Tomorrow, finding there's likely to be a controversial road ahead for the bright-yellow mini-van.