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Why Cars Are Considered Lame in Japan
Ryan Chin and his colleagues are building the car of the future—a stackable, electric, shared two-passenger city vehicle that rethinks urban mobility. This work, in collaboration with General Motors, takes into account problems of parking, congestion, communication, and energy distribution, and considers the best and most efficient uses of available resources in an urban environment. The project also serves as a platform for investigating Ryan's interests in mass-customization and personalization in product-development processes.
Question: What other transportation vehicles are you working on in the Media Lab?
Ryan Chin: We’ve also developed two other vehicles. One is called the RoboScooter. It’s an electric folding scooter. We did that with SYM, which is a scooter manufacturer in Taiwan. That vehicle, like the city car uses in-wheel electric motors and it’s very lightweight. It uses just one-tenth of the parts of a traditional gasoline powered scooter. It weighs half the weight of a traditional scooter. It’s about 90 pounds and again, it can be used in mobility on demand systems. You can imagine a mobility on demand network of these vehicles at charging stations where you can pick up and drop off the scooter. What we’ve also noticed in doing these studies is that in many places, particularly in Asia the pickup and drop off points may be different than they are in the West and in Europe. For example, in Taiwan they have the highest density of convenience stores in the world. 7/11’s are on every block, so you can imagine placing you know almost a scooter vending machine outside of every 7/11 and when you go to 7/11 you pick up a scooter or every convenience store that you go to or every donut shop that you go to here in Massachusetts. There are lots of donut shops. If you can imagine going to every one of these stations and picking up and dropping off that way. So what we’re trying to do is create a network that is looking for landing points in the city that are fairly ubiquitous, bus stops, convenience stores, schools. In Europe you know the Piazza is a great common gathering place. So I think that the scooter fits in very well because it’s very compact and it can fit into very narrow streets.
The scooter itself is something that we’ve been working on for a little bit of time now, about a year, year and a half and it’s quickly moving into production. In fact, we’re looking at production of scooters for the Chinese market pretty soon and we think that the key to the development of mobility on demand is to get the different vehicle types out there as quickly as possible. Each vehicle will have its different level of complexity in getting it out there as a product, so we’ve developed essentially an ecosystem. You have the car, which is the most complex vehicle. It has the greatest carrying capacity. We have the scooter, which is in the middle and then the last one is the bicycle that we’ve designed. The bicycle is called the Green Wheel Bicycle, Green Wheel Electric Bicycle. It’s an electric assist bicycle and so the idea is we’ve placed the in-wheel motor inside the hub of the wheel, just like we have for the other vehicles, but for a bicycle and the bicycle, the Green Wheel is an electric assist, so when you come to a hill you hit a button or a throttle control and provides electric power to the rear wheel, so it can help you to overcome the hill and it basically allows you to extend the range of someone that’s traditionally you know riding a bicycle, so you can overcome hills and go further distances. And the other key thing is that the Green Wheel is very modular, so it can fit in any standard bicycle, so you can take a regular bike, remove the rear wheel, put this new wheel unit in it and then now you have an electric bike. The controls are either on the handlebar or on the pedals of the bike and so that’s how you activate the wheel to be powered up and interesting thing about this is that it should open up the demographic of people riding bicycles, not just able bodied young people, but now seniors can ride. A couple that is a little bit older and one is… one of the couples is… has a hard time catching up, you can give that person an electric boost to be more social and to ride together. So I think that there opens up the whole demographic. Again, the Green Wheel like the RoboScooter and the city car can be used in mobility on demand systems and in fact, a lot of the existing bike sharing programs that exist today can be retrofit with the Green Wheel, so that you have some traditional bicycles and some that are electric. In fact, I think that’s going to open up so many more people to bicycling, which is one of the greatest inventions of all time is just the bicycle itself, a very energy efficient way of getting around in cities.
Question: Why are other countries already invested in electric bikes?
Ryan Chin: Electric bikes are very, very popular in China. They’re not being used in mobility on demand bike sharing programs. They’re just private use. In fact, China has already produced almost 100 million electric bikes in the last 10 years, so every year they’re producing 10 to 20 million electric bikes over 50% of which are for the domestic market, for the Chinese market, so that’s really you know taking off. In Europe electric bikes are very popular. In France, in Italy and also in Germany and in Holland you know almost 100,000 bikes being sold in… for the Dutch. So it’s really blowing up. In the US the market is small, but I think most people think of electric bikes as recreational and not basic transportation in the US, but I think that’s going to change dramatically, especially with these bike-sharing programs coming into play. Gas prices have changed a lot of behavior of consumers and at the same time there is a lot of gentrification of city centers now too, especially in the South. Louisville, Kentucky for example has a lot of people moving back into the center, reclaiming a lot of the sort of old warehouses in the city. There has been a big turnaround. Charlotte, North Carolina the same sort of behavior too, so I see the gentrification along with this movement and I think that there is actually a general too and you can see this in Japan where a lot of young people aren’t interested in owning cars anymore. It’s not cool to own a car anymore. It’s a burden to own a vehicle. I want to be more of a cool, hip young urbanite instead and that’s been a big trend as well. And of course those empty nesters are starting to move back into the city as well. This is a very common thing where you know kids have gone to college and we don’t need a big suburban home anymore. People are starting to look to move back into the city as well, so I think that’s a general trend. That’s a very Western trend. I think in the East and in Asia the urban densification is because of economic opportunity. That’s happening in Africa as well. Those two continents will be for the next 20 to 30 years where most of the growth will be in terms of population growth and the majority of that will be in cities, in dense urban areas and that’s primarily because of the economic opportunity there.
Recorded on January 21, 2010
Ryan Chin outlines the other revolutionary green vehicles under development at MIT Media Lab that have the potential to alter urban transportation.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.
- The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
- Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>
A new swine flu in China<p>Last week, researchers in China also reported another public health concern: a new virus that has "all the essential hallmarks" of a pandemic virus.<br></p><p>In a paper published in the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/23/1921186117" target="_blank">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, researchers say the virus was discovered in pigs in China, and it descended from the H1N1 virus, commonly called "swine flu." That virus was able to transmit from human to human, and it killed an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people worldwide from 2009 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p>There's no evidence showing that the new virus can spread from person to person. But the researchers did find that 10 percent of swine workers had been infected by the virus, called G4 reassortant EA H1N1. This level of infectivity raises concerns, because it "greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses," the researchers wrote.
The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.
- The terms 'education' and 'learning' are often used interchangeably, but there is a cultural connotation to the former that can be limiting. Education naturally links to schooling, which is only one form of learning.
- Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
- Post-COVID, the way we think about what learning looks like will inevitably change, so it's crucial to adjust and begin building the necessary support systems today.
Scientists uncovered the secrets of what drove some of the world's last remaining woolly mammoths to extinction.
Every summer, children on the Alaskan island of St Paul cool down in Lake Hill, a crater lake in an extinct volcano – unaware of the mysteries that lie beneath.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Times of crisis tend to increase self-centered acts.