Riderless Bicycles

When I was a kid my bike was a magic pass to go anywhere, such as a friend’s house or to get snacks at the gas station. While I don’t remember not riding without training wheels, I am sure I learned how to ride when we lived on Thomas Nolan. And everyone knows the hardest thing about riding a bicycle is balancing the weight for the bicycle to remain centered.

When I say this video, I laughed about the prospect of a bicycle simply rolling down the road. What good would that be? Then I started thinking about my last visit to Antwerp when I saw the Velo bicycle stations all over town (https://www.slimnaarantwerpen.be/en/bike/renting).

While the bikes were ridden during the day, the bicycles were picked up and repositioned at night. If only the bicycles could reposition themselves, Velo would save the costs of crews going out to return these bikes to pickup centers. If only someone invited a riderless bicycle…

Well there are riderless bicycles now!

On a future visit, I may see empty bicycles shuffling between stations, or I call one to meet me at my hotel door. Once again, technology may transform what was once a parody into the commonplace.

What is "Smart Transportation"

In talking about automation, emerging technologies, telecommunications, Internet of Things, we are witnessing the evolution of “Smart Transportation”.  And in many ways, they are correct, but for something to be smart, the implications that the current system is “dumb”.  I don’t think “Smart” describes the complexity of transportation.

Transportation began with a man/woman carrying something from Point A to Point B.  Seeing everyone in the tribe carrying their own materials, someone says “We could carry more if we lashed the object to a pole”.  Together, they can now effectively carry more.  The concept of efficiency, per-unit costs, time, etc., became more manageable as people understood transportation allowed for the construction of structures, the movement of food products, minerals, and ideas.

From a technology perspective, we harnessed the elements:  wind drove our boats, fire forged the metals that become bolt, nails, airplanes.  Over time, we learned to understand risks creating commercial laws/traditions that supported the movement of goods and people.  Eventually, humans learned to use boats, animals, sleds, wheels, air, internal combustion engines, etc., each innovation requiring new technological knowledge to be gained and shared. (The history of the wheel!)

In that perspective, in the year 2525, some critics may talk about how simple “our smart technology” will appear.  In their mind, today’s “smart innovations” will be the future’s “dumb” system that needs improvement.