Sustainable Personal Mobility: The CityCar, the RoboScooter, and Mobility-on-Demand Systems
The gasoline-powered private automobile was one of the greatest inventions of all time. Over the last century, it has radically transformed our daily lives and the forms of our cities. However, it has become increasingly apparent that there are strict limits to scales at which automobile-based personal mobility systems can effectively and responsibly operate, and that we are fast approaching those limits. The proximity of limits shows up in the forms of rapidly growing negative externalities to
Describe the critical need your solution addresses.
Our team has finished conceptual design for both the electric vehicles and the mobility-on-demand system. We are now engaged in the design development and have produced working prototypes for each of the vehicles including:
1. CityCar – Full-scale working prototype of the chassis.
2. RoboScooter – 2 show car quality full-scale prototypes, the first of which was showcased at the Milano Motorcycle show in November 2007.
3. GreenWheel Bicycle – Full-scale working prototype showcased at the Copenhagen conference on SmartBiking (prelude to the November 2009 U.N. Conference on Climate Change).
We have researched the top vehicle sharing systems in Asia, Europe, and the US and closely examined the world’s largest mobility-on-demand system, the Paris Vélib bicycle system, which employees over 20,000 bicycles and 1200 racks. This has allowed us to distill a best practices strategy for implementing a profitable and sustainable transportation system including sizing of the fleet, station placement, maintenance, and fleet logistics. We have also developed a system dynamics model which anticipates user demand and optimizes the vehicle supply chain.
Our team has engaged in discussions with the political leaders of San Francisco, London, Florence, Lisbon, Taipei, and Bangalore and has developed implementation plans for these cities. We have also created business models that account for the implementation and initial rollout, marketing, system growth, maintenance, and overall economic sustainability.
We will utilize the prize money for technical development and business modeling as a basis for pursing venture capital. Phase 1 implementation includes a pilot on MIT and Harvard’s campus, with the purpose of testing our system in a manageable area where we can learn and improve the system before full-scale deployment. The pilot including planning and implementation will take 2 years. The 3rd year will be devoted to city-scale deployment in of our candidate cities (mentioned above).
Explain your initiative in more depth and its stage of development.
Mobility-on-demand systems, using ultra-lightweight electric vehicles, provide a radical but fully feasible alternative to gasoline-powered private automobiles.
Urban mobility systems utilizing gasoline-powered private automobiles are failing. The symptoms of rapidly approaching crisis are: urban street and road congestion; excessive consumption of space by parking; local noise, air pollution, and danger; excessive energy consumption and petroleum dependence; and carbon emissions producing global warming.
Electrical mobility-on-demand systems dramatically reduce all of these problems. They make far more efficient use of available road space; they reduce parking space requirements by almost an order of magnitude; they are silent; they are extremely energy-efficient; they are friendly to solar and wind power; and they produce no tailpipe emissions.
The key innovation is to combine: (1) In-wheel motor, simple, lightweight electric vehicles with (2) Automatic recharging in parking spaces, and (3) City-wide mobility-on-demand systems managed by sophisticated networking and software. All the technology is feasible, and the current economic and political climate is right.
How does your strategy and approach respond creatively and comprehensively to key issues?
Our team has core competences in all of the major areas required to implement mobility-on-demand including vehicle design, urban/transportation planning, mechanical/electrical engineering, systems modeling, IT networks, operations, and business development. We have solicited advisors for the business model, solidified relationships with industrial partners, and consulted experts in the deployment of disruptive technologies.
We have been able to validate our research by prototyping and testing all of our concepts and by running virtual simulations of the fleet behavior in order to formulate algorithms for logistical optimization. In addition we have closely examined existing systems and have determined their weaknesses and proposed better solutions to solve these problems.
Ultimately, a pilot program is the best validation because it is a real world and appropriately sized implementation for learning user behavior and making improvements to the system. A number of candidate cities (mentioned above) are anxiously waiting for the completion of the pilot program. As a research group at MIT, we have proposed a joint deployment between MIT and Harvard, where we can easily find advocates in the administration, implement and test locally, engage an eager student/faculty population, and solve the energy, environment and mobility problems right in our backyard.