Dunkirk, France offers free public transit to all

October 26, 2017 by  
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The small coastal city of Dunkirk in northern France is perhaps most famous, at the moment, for its portrayal in Christopher Nolan’s eponymous 2017 film, but it also deserves special attention for its decision to offer free public transit to all. In a move designed to reinforce economic fairness and establish Dunkirk as a sustainable, low-carbon community, Mayor Patrice Vergriete established the city’s inclusive transit policy, which will expand free public transit service to seven days a week starting in September 2018. The policy change, paid for with money that was originally allocated for the construction of a sports stadium, has been successful in increasing and diversifying ridership and could prove to be a powerful model for other cities looking to improve their quality of life and decrease their carbon footprint. When Vergriete first ran for mayor in 2014, he articulated his vision of a diverse, inclusive city that welcomes young people and families, supports the mobility of the elderly, and empowers people with limited economic means , according to CityLab . “I wanted to give back purchasing power to the families,” explained Vergriete on his initial motive. After launching free weekend services, ridership soared, up 30 percent on Saturday and 80 percent on Sunday. When free public transit is fully expanding to an all-week schedule, Dunkirk will be the largest city in France, though not the first, to offer this service. Related: Singapore is banning all new private vehicles from its roads Although the public transit services in Dunkirk may be free to riders, it is not a free ride for the local government, which must fund the service . Vergriete has observed that some are skeptical of the city’s ability to deliver these services without burdening taxpayers. “They think it’s like magic,” said Vergriete. “They think it’s not possible, that you are a liar. You cannot pay the salaries of the drivers, for the buses, with free transport.” In fact, only 10 percent of the public transit’s funding in Dunkirk was paid for with fares, a model that is similarly used in cities around the world , writes CityLab. Since rider fares are already such a small slice of the pie, “mayors should think about making it free,” said Vergriete. “It’s really a choice that we are making to charge.” In addition to support from the regional government’s general budget, the free transit service is primarily funded by a special transit tax on businesses, which was originally raised by Vergriete’s predecessor to pay for an expansion to a local sports arena. “It is a question of political priority ,” said Vergriete, whose administration chose to use that money set aside for a stadium to fund inclusive public transit instead. Via CityLab Images via  Vincent Desjardins/Flickr , Marco Chiesa/Flickr and Depositphotos

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Virgin Hyperloop One: Richard Branson invests in Musk-inspired high-speed transportation

October 13, 2017 by  
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A Hyperloop project just got a huge boost from none other than business magnate Richard Branson . Hyperloop One will rebrand as Virgin Hyperloop One, as the Virgin Group invests in the high-speed transportation effort. The investment follows a July full-scale test , which co-founder Shervin Pishevar described as their Kitty Hawk moment. Virgin Hyperloop One seems set to take on the world with help from Branson. He said in a blog post Virgin has always “been known for disruption and investing in innovative companies” and that he visited their test site, DevLoop, near Las Vegas during the summer, and was impressed with the tests. He’s now investing in the effort, and will also sit on the company’s board of directors. Related: Hyperloop One conducts first full-scale test of superfast transportation system Branson said during the second phase of testing, the Hyperloop team achieved a top speed of 192 miles per hour, and the longest test was 10.6 seconds. 436 meters, or around 1,430 feet, is the maximum distance traveled. The DevLoop tube length is 500 meters – around 1,640 feet – long, with a diameter of 3.3 meters, or around 11 feet. Hyperloop One said in their statement on the investment that the partnership “feels like a natural fit.” Their President of Engineering Josh Giegel once worked at Virgin Galactic. Branson said he invests in people, not simply technology . Hyperloop One said they already have projects afoot in the United States, United Arab Emirates, India, Canada, Finland, and the Netherlands, and hope to accelerate commercialization with the help of the Virgin Group. Both Branson’s blog and Hyperloop One’s statement mentioned the importance of clean transportation technology – the Hyperloop mode of transportation will be all- electric and efficient. Even though the Virgin name is now attached to the project, Hyperloop One said Virgin won’t be the sole operator. Around the world, they’ll work with many different operators, chosen by customers. Via Virgin Group and Hyperloop One Images via Greg Rose/Virgin and Hyperloop One

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Virgin Hyperloop One: Richard Branson invests in Musk-inspired high-speed transportation

Airbus’ flying electric taxi is on track to soar next year

October 9, 2017 by  
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Vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicles are really taking off, and Airbus is set to launch a VTOL taxi by next year. The multi-passenger CityAirbus is powered by electric motors – and it’s designed to one day operate autonomously . The CityAirbus could allow commuters to escape traffic by turning to an affordable, environmentally friendly new mode of travel . Airbus announced they just finished their first full-scale testing for the CityAirbus’ propulsion system, describing the testing phase as successful. This means they’re on track for their first flight, scheduled for the end of next year. Related: Airbus and Italdesign unveil modular urban land and air transport system CityAirbus chief engineer Marius Bebesel said in a statement, “We now have a better understanding of the performance of CityAirbus’ innovative electric propulsion system, which we will continue to mature through rigorous testing while beginning the assembly of the full-scale CityAirbus flight demonstrator.” The CityAirbus boasts what Airbus describes as a four-ducted propeller configuration, which boosts safety and helps yield a low acoustic footprint. 100 kilowatt electric Siemens motors and four batteries help the CityAirbus get from point A to point B. As many as four people will be able to ride in a CityAirbus, which will cruise at a speed of 120 kilometers per hour, or around 75 miles per hour, along fixed routes. In the beginning a pilot will fly the VTOL, but Airbus plans for the vehicle to one day pilot itself. Airbus said there are benefits to adding a third dimension of travel to urban transportation , such as opening up accessibility for underserved or remote areas of a city . Self-piloted vehicles in particular can operate around three times faster than a typical road vehicle, and are energy efficient , running off electricity. Airbus said their VTOL method of travel will be quick and affordable. Via Airbus Images via Airbus ( 1 , 2 )

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Dubai has officially started testing flying taxis

September 26, 2017 by  
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Dubai is now one step closer to launching the world’s first flying taxi service. On Monday, Volocopter successfully tested its two-seater Autonomous Air Taxi (AAT), which hovered for about five minutes approximately 200 meters off the ground. The vehicle resembles a small helicopter topped with 18 propellers, and it’s powered entirely by electricity. Volocopter ‘s AAT prototype is remarkably quiet, and it has a cruise speed of 50 km/h and a maximum airspeed of 100 km/h. In total, the drone taxi measures two meters in height and it has a diameter (including propellers) of just over seven meters. When it’s officially launched, the AAT will be able to fly without remote control guidance and take trips up to 30 minutes at a time. In case of trouble, there are a number of fail-safes – including backup batteries, rotors, and even built-in parachutes. “Implementation would see you using your smartphone , having an app, and ordering a Volocopter to the next voloport near you. The volocopter would come and autonomously pick you up and take you to your destination,” said CEO of Volocopter, Florian Reuter. “It already is capable of flying based on GPS tracks today, and we will implement full sense capability, also dealing with unknown obstacles on the way.” Related: Lilium’s all-electric flying taxi could travel from Manhattan to JFK in 5 minutes Venture Beat reports that the test flight occurred during a ceremony arranged for Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed. “Encouraging innovation and adopting the latest technologies contributes not only to the country‘s development but also builds bridges into the future,” said Sheikh Hamdan said in a statement. “This is another testament to our commitment to driving positive change. We are constantly exploring opportunities to serve the community and advance the prosperity and happiness of society.” Volocopter plans to launch a flying taxi service in Dubai within five years. Time is ticking, as more than a dozen, well-funded firms in the U.S. and Europe are developing their own high-tech flying vehicles. + Volocopter Via Venture Beat, The National Images via Dubai Media Office

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Dubai has officially started testing flying taxis

China takes on the Hyperloop with a supersonic ‘flying train’

September 4, 2017 by  
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Hyperloop mania has been heating up with the recent news that Elon Musk is planning to build one of the systems himself . Now China has their own answer: T-Flight, a “flying train” they say could travel even faster than a Hyperloop. This proposed mode of transportation could also reportedly shatter the sound barrier at 2,485 miles per hour (mph). China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) is working on the flying train that could travel at supersonic speeds, according to chief engineer Mao Kai, speaking to the state-run China News Service (CNS). A Hyperloop would travel at speeds of around 760 mph, just below the sound barrier. Related: Hyperloop One exhibits exciting first images of full-scale test track The flying train doesn’t truly fly. Instead, CNET described it as basically a Maglev train in a vacuum tube, quoting the South China Morning Post which said it draws inspiration from bullet trains, supersonic flight, and, of course, the Hyperloop. Kai told CNS people don’t need to worry about passenger safety since as acceleration speed wouldn’t even be as fast as an airplane taking off. He also said the flying train wouldn’t run on fossil fuels and wouldn’t be impacted by weather conditions. The train could also connect with subways. According to CNS, the project team is working with more than 20 research institutes to realize this project. Experts have their doubts. Beijing Transport University professor Zhao Jian told South China Morning Post the human body can only endure acceleration speeds of up to 4,000 kilometers per hour, or 2,485 mph, for a very brief time period. He told the news outlet, “In that case, are the passengers going to be astronauts only?” Other people say there’s no braking system in the world that would be able to halt the flying train in an emergency stop and have the passengers live. Internet users said the government should focus on other important issues. One Beijing commenter wrote on social media network Sina Weibo, “Can the government please invent technology to solve traffic jams first?” There’s no time frame for when a flying train might materialize, although according to CNET, it’s among the first serious concepts for supersonic ground transportation. Via CNET , China News Service , and South China Morning Post Images via screenshot

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Elon Musks Boring Company receives green light to dig a two-mile test tunnel

August 28, 2017 by  
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Progress is being made on Elon Musk’s version of the Hyperloop , a supersonic train that could potentially travel up to 700 mph. Last week, the City Council in Hawthorne, California voted four to one in favor of allowing Musk’s Boring Company to dig a two-mile-long underground test tunnel. The newly-approved extension will stretch beyond the company’s property line outside of Los Angeles and will run 44 feet below the public roads and utilities that surround SpaceX headquarters. Reportedly, consumers won’t even notice the construction. The test tunnel will allow Boring Company to test its own version of the supersonic train which Musk previously shared open plans for. As The Verge reports, the planned route doesn’t go under any privately-owned residential or commercial property, aside from that owned by SpaceX. When the test tunnel is completed, the city can request the company fill it with concrete or soil. Read more: Hyperloop One conducts first full-scale test of superfast transportation system Brett Horton, senior director of facilities and construction for SpaceX , assured the Council that people in the area won’t even notice the construction — or the testing. He said, “They won’t even know we’re there” even though digging will take place below their feet. To assuage concern, Horton added that the company thoroughly tests the soil and will deliver the results to the city on a daily basis. If the ground is found to move as little as half-an-inch in either direction, work will stop until a solution is found. If the public has concerns, they can contact the city or visit SpaceX headquarters, he added. “Our operations team is on site at the entrance shaft, so we’re easy to reach,” said Horton. Hawthorne’s Mayor Alex Vargas said, “This is groundbreaking, this is establishing a precedent, and I think we all agree that we want to make sure that this goes off without a hitch.” The Boring Company still needs to obtain an “encroachment permit” before it can dig the test tunnel. Because some are still wary of the proposed Hyperloop , the company might still run into challenges. Regardless, the City Council’s approval is an essential step for Musk’s latest project. + Boring Company Via The Verge Images via Boring Company , Optimist Daily

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India to ban driverless cars to protect citizens jobs

July 25, 2017 by  
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By the year 2030, 25 percent of American citizens will transit via self-driving vehicles – but the situation will be very different in India. This is because India’s transport and highways minister, Nitin Gadkari, announced today that self-driving cars will not be allowed in the country. He told reporters, “We won’t allow driverless cars in India. I am very clear on this.” As Engadget reports, the statement does not reflect safety concerns. Rather, Gadkari rejects self-driving vehicles because they could potentially take jobs away from drivers in the country. “We won’t allow any technology that takes away jobs. In a country where you have unemployment , you can’t have a technology that ends up taking people’s jobs,” said Gadkari. India’s transport and highways minister added that the government is working on opening several training facilities across the country in an effort to ensure 5,000 more professional drivers take to the roads over the next few years. He rejects the notion of self-driving vehicles, even while admitting that India is presently short about 22,000 commercial drivers. Though the decision may seem like a negative development, India wasn’t on track to receive self-driving technology anytime soon. According to statements made by former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, this is because the country’s haphazard roads and congested traffic present great barriers to the implementation of driverless cars. Related: Half of the World’s Consumers Trust Autonomous Cars, According to a New Study India-based Tata Elxsi is ambitious to introduce autonomous vehicles to the country, however. In recent months, the company has been testing self-driving vehicles on a track designed to resemble the country’s roads. Engineers have even gone as far as to install pedestrians, livestock, unsigned merge lanes and limited signage on the track to give the driverless cars as “real of an experience as possible.” With this new declaration by Gadkari, however, it is unknown what action the company will take. Via Engadget Images via Pixabay

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Taipei transforms subway cars into ultra-realistic swimming pools and sports fields

July 19, 2017 by  
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No diving, please! Taipei is getting into the sporting spirit by transforming the interiors of its subway trains into mini sports arenas to celebrate the 29th Summer Universiade Games . The fun artwork, which is shockingly realistic, was inspired by the major sporting events that will take place during the event such as swimming, track and field, soccer, baseball and basketball. Photo by huei_0804 The 29th Summer Universiade Games will be held in Taipei from August 19th to August 30th. To celebrate the event, the city has transformed the interior of the city’s MRT trains to resemble sporting arenas . The city really went all-out to create lifelike settings – the swimming train, covered in what looks like inches of flowing water, is shockingly realistic. Related: Beijing’s futuristic new subway stations are straight out of Blade Runner Each of the subway trains has also been equipped with a FAQ box that will provide information about the scheduled events as well as rules and interesting facts related to the sport portrayed in each carriage. The fun campaign, which is sponsored by The Department of Information and Tourism and EasyCard Corporation, encourages subway riders to take selfies to post on Instagram to generate awareness of the sporting event. + Taipei Tourism Via This is Colossal Images via Taipei Tourism and Instagram

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Vertical Line Garden engulfs visitors in a flurry of colorful kinetic tapes

July 19, 2017 by  
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Canadian design studio BACKOFFICE found a surprising and fun new use for commercial barrier tape for the Vertical Line Garden, a kinetic installation bursting with color that changes dramatically with the light and wind. Developed for the 2017 International Garden Festival in Quebec , the Vertical Line Garden offers a twist on the formal traditional garden, using “contemporary ready-made means and hyper un-natural materials.” The multi-sensory and interactive pavilion comes to life as the pavilion’s hanging barricade tapes move about in the wind and generate a flurry of sound and color. Now in its fourth iteration, the Vertical Line Garden began in 2014 as an exercise in horizontal elements. Today’s version is the most spatial of the four iterations and is entirely vertical with added color and pattern. The installation is built of mass-produced safety and construction materials including commercial barrier tape, a timber frame , and a net. These man-made elements create great contrast with the cultivated Les Jardins de Métis and also communicate the theme of environmental protection and safeguarding. Related: Intriguing ION2 installation in Seattle responds to the movement of passersby BACKOFFICE writes: “The main material forming the installation , barricade tape (barrier tape), is typically used to delineate a perimeter and keep people out of a particular area or zone. Here however it is used precisely to bring visitors into the space and entice them to inhabit it.” To encourage people to stay and use the space, custom-fabricated bent-metal and canvas lounge chairs are provided. The billowing canopy that engulfs the interior is a dazzling display of color, light, and pattern. + BACKOFFICE Images by Martin Bond

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A beautiful "canopy of light" resurrects the Guangzhou East Railway Station in China

June 23, 2017 by  
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One of the biggest railway terminals in China recently received an extensive renovation that shelters the main entrance with a beautiful “canopy of light.” The Architectural design and Research Institute of SCUT renovated the landmark Guangzhou East Railway Station by installing artificial landscape elements, repairing the public spaces , and introducing a series of amenities that meet the requirements of a modern railway station. The station was constructed in the mid 1990s, and it suffered from poorly organized of circulation and ventilation routes. Guangzhou won the bid to host the 2010 Asian Games, which provided it with the opportunity to upgrade the station and convert it into the valuable public space it’s supposed to be. Related: Renovated Paris Rail Station Will House 1000 Start-Ups! The architects cut several openings into the floor to allow natural light to filter inside. They moved the main entrance from the ground floor to the upper level and created a curved glass canopy that protects pedestrians from excessive sunlight and rain. All the metal elements are modular , and they were prefabricated in local factories and installed on site. A recent renovation round, executed six years after the Asian Games, introduced smaller elements like a loop-shaped kiosk, translucent curtains beneath the roof and other public amenities. + Architectural design and Research Institute of SCUT Photos by Liky Lam

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