social transit

The Road Train Will Mean Driving Without Hands

If apps like Weeels are about sharing vehicles better, the road train concept – a platoon of cars led automatically down the highway by a “leader” car – is about sharing the road better.

This isn’t science fiction. As we wrote last year, the idea is “to link cars up in a kind of contact-less highway conga line, eliminating the potential for congestion, reducing crashes, maximizing cars’ fuel efficiency, accelerating the journey, and also, of course, taking the whole ‘driving’ thing out of driving.

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In Europe, the idea of cars that drive themselves is being forged by the European Union’s Safe Road Trains for the Environment (Sartre) initiative, which plans to have a real-world test with a single following car by the end of 2010.

While the technologists are confident about the safety of such a system, the sensation of sitting behind the wheel fully lost in a movie or a newspaper will probably take drivers some getting used to (but probably not too much). Just buckle your seatbelts everyone.

Great Piece About Weeels at Grist

“Cars already exist,” said Mahfouda. “As a designer, the most responsible thing is to reuse and redesign what we have. So we looked at broadly repurposing cars.”

There’s a great piece about Weeels at Grist by Sarah Goodyear, which hits on a lot of reasons why smarter transportation is both desired and important right now, from the need for faster and more efficient ways to get around our cities to the need to cut back on waste.

Weeels Gets More Social: Login With Facebook

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Weeels, our cab-ordering and -sharing app, is taking social transit to the social masses.

The latest version of the Weeels iPhone application lets users log in with just a Facebook account, simplifying the process and assuring potential sharers that their ride partners are who they claim to be.

This is a big step forward in our goal of leveraging existing social networks and social networking tools to make transportation more efficient for everyone.

Part of that is opening up new lines of communication. Once linked to a Facebook account, Weeels can also publish updates to users’ activity streams about where they are headed, maximizing the chances of finding ride partners among your social network.

This is a starting point of integration with Facebook (as well as other social tools) as a way to make it easier for Weeels users to find ride partners who they know and like.

Go ahead and give it a try for yourself: Download the app or, if you don’t have an iPhone, give the mobile web version a try at m.weeels.org.

"Slugging": D.C.'s old-fashioned ride-sharing system

In Washington, D.C., commuters don’t just rely on private cars or trains. They can also go “slugging” - also known as casual carpooling or dynamic ride-sharing.

The Washington Post writes about Dave LeBlanc, a defense contractor, who runs D.C.‘s only slugging Web site, Slug-Lines.com, a community forum dedicated to those who take, or offer, free rides for commuters traveling by car to and from Washington’s outer suburbs to Crystal City, Rosslyn, the Pentagon and the District. It describes itself as “not a government sponsored commuter program, but one created out of ingenuity from local citizens to solve commuter problems.”

Slugging is a Washington-area tradition dating back to the mid-1970s, when high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes were constructed on interstates 95 and 395 to combat soaring gas prices. For decades, only one formal slugging location was used - in Springfield, next to Bob’s Big Boy restaurant at Bland Street and Old Keene Mill Road. But as traffic worsened across Northern Virginia, so too did the number of slugging locations. Today, there are at least 18 slug routes in the Virginia suburbs, serving thousands of daily commuters.

Slug line systems have also cropped up in traffic-clogged sections of Dallas-Fort Worth and San Francisco. A July symposium in Arlington County looked at ways to expand slugging in the D.C. area, and federal transportation officials are studying the phenomenon to see if pilot projects in other cities could help alleviate congestion. 

 

The HOV lanes that gave rise to slugging were a direct result of the Arab oil crisis. Governments realized they could reduce gasoline consumption and improve the environment at the same time. For sluggers, who exchange no money while sharing rides, the practice is a win-win: drivers can get where they’re going faster, commuters get a free ride.

The term itself derives from the way that prospective ride-sharers would often confuse bus drivers, who would sometimes stop for them thinking they wanted a bus ride. “Slug” was a term used for counterfeit coins, but the drivers began applying the term to the ride-sharers, who weren’t bus riders or even “real” car poolers in the usual sense of the word.

It’s awesome what communities can do to improve transit on their own, even without smart phones. How much could the addition of phones or other technologies help an established network like this one? 

photo: flickr/DAN_DC

Video Conference Today: The Social Traffic Conundrum

This is right up our important (and maybe a bit nerdy, but just for now!) social transit alley: a discussion today on how social media can reduce traffic. Couldn’t find any more info on it, but it looks good. Click that link and sign up for an email reminder.

smarterplanet:

The Social Traffic Conundrum: An IBM vPanel Interactive Dialogue 

Date: Wednesday, September 22, 4pm ET 

Location:  The IBM New Intelligence Video Studio, http://www.livestream.com/newintelligence

Description: For Social Media Week 2010 — taking place simultaneously across five cities,  IBM is bringing together four thought leaders from around the globe — via a webcam-based virtual panel — to discuss the challenge of urban traffic and how human behavior and social media can help remedy it .  

Panelists:

  • Shaun Abrahamson, Founder and CEO, Mutopo
  • Naveen Lamba, Industry Leader, Smart Transportation, IBM
  • Sarah Goodyear, Cities Editor, Grist.org
  • Richard MacManus, Founder of ReadWriteWeb