View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Friday, July 31, 2009

Rental Cars and New Vehicle Designs Could Fix UAE’s Transport Challenges

I love TED Global Talks because TED's mission is about ‘Spreading Ideas’.

At a recent gathering of TED’s Talks, MIT’s Ryan Chin shared ideas about urban transport.

Do you reckon these ideas could help solve the energy and congestion problems of the big cities in the Emirates like Dubai and Abu Dhabi?

Here is a summary of Ryan’s talk, courtesy of blogger and TED Blog Assistant Editor, Matthew Trost:

“Today's automobile weighs 20 times its driver, MIT's Ryan Chin said. It takes up valuable urban real estate. It's designed to go 100 MPH, while its driver often needs only a quarter of that speed. The supply chain for its petroleum-based fuels is problematic. In New York City, 40% of total gasoline used by cars is wasted on drivers looking for parking spots.”

“Chin outlined two possible remedies: highly individual transit and mass transit. He looks at Taipei as an example of the former: Scooters are extremely popular there. But a huge "sea" of scooters is cumbersome.”

“Mass transportation, on the other hand, does not cover an entire city; it's inconvenient and inflexible. The "first mile, last mile" problem: How does one get to and from public transit?”

“Chin is designing a "Mobility-on-Demand" system of transportation, where users can rent electric cars, scooters or bicycles at hubs located all around a city.”

“Chin and his team are also designing vehicles. In his electric car, each wheel is a module that has independent steering, power and locomotion. Without a central engine or drive line, the whole car design scheme changes: you can now fold the car. Each wheel can turn 180 degrees, so the car can turn on its own axis, and move sideways.”

“These vehicles will be able to plug into renewable energy sources -- and sell unused energy back to the grid. Each vehicle will have GPS, so we always know where available vehicles are, where they're going. Chin proposed a variable pricing structure for his vehicle-sharing system -- based on the number of people waiting for vehicles, the number of parking spaces nearby, and proximity to any local rental hub.”

Can you see any of this having a useful application to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the Emirates?

See more detail on this and other summaries on TED Blog, 29 July 2009.

Monk Says If You Want to Find Yourself Don’t Use Google Search, TED Global, SFS, 29 July 2009.
Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: TED Audience and presenter, Ryan Chin. (Photos courtesy of TED Global at the above link).