Is This the City Car of the Future?

Update: see previous post – October 13, 2010 Google’s Self-Driving Robot Car

see source, CTV News

In Toronto circa 1961, a gallon of gasoline was a mere 37 cents (that’s 9 cents a litre) and the cost of a new car was about $1,000. Last week, gas hit all-time highs in cities across Canada, reaching $1.14 or more a litre in Toronto.

Is this the Compact Urban Car of the Future?

But with suburban sprawl stretching the GTA from the Durham Region to Burlington and beyond, most drivers facing long commutes just grit their teeth and open their wallets.

And despite the city’s plan to focus on density as it plans for the future — building up rather than out — the vast expanse that is already the 905 region requires that urban planners confront the problem of city and regional transit systems that fail to meet residents’ needs.

Compact Cars of the Future?

And the problem will get worse over the next few decades, says Robert Freedman, Toronto’s director of urban design.

“The major challenge I see for Toronto over the next 50 years is getting a transit system in place,” Freedman told CTV Toronto.

But is a traditional system, made up of buses, streetcars and subways, the public transportation mode of the future?

Demographer David Foot, author of “Boom, Bust & Echo,” says the current model will fail an aging population.

“There’s no way a 70-year-old is going to stand on the sidewalk at 6 o’clock at night waiting for a bus, particularly in winter,” Foot told CTV Toronto. “So the old ideas about transit need to be re-thought.”

Enter the driverless car, as envisioned by Disney in the 1950s.

Science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer, author of Flashforward, says 50 years into the future, wasting time sitting in stop-and-go traffic on the 401 could be a distant memory.

“We are going to eliminate that human driver,” Sawyer told CTV Toronto. So even if you do have a lengthy commute, it will transform from today’s frustrating experience to “productive time” in the future.

Prototypes of such vehicles are already in the works. Google, for example, employed a driverless car to snap photographs for its Street View feature. And a small, collapsible driverless car for city driving was recently unveiled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In the GTA, which could become a “mega-region” of some 10 million to 15 million people by 2061, these new and novel ways of getting around could be the answer to crippling gridlock.

But it’s not the only answer, says futurist Richard Florida.

Florida, the author of “The Rise of the Creative Class” and “Who’s Your City,” told CTV Toronto that the suburbs, which by their very design call for more time in the car, need to be re-imagined and redeveloped.

“The greatest urban renewal project of our entire life is going to be making the suburbs walkable, liveable, denser, more family friendly, more engaged, fitter communities.”

Update: January 21, 2011 – Beware of the $10,000.00 cost of a battery (which only last for 3-5 years) in hybrid, electric cars

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3 comments

  1. Hi Les: The car is stackable and can fold up. MIT is constantly coming up with new innovations, although most of these ideas die on the drawing board and seldom make it to production. On first glance, this car doesn’t appear rugged enough or equipped to negotiate our terrain or flexible enough to make it through the winter conditions.

    But then again the Smart Car has survived to date.

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