Marking 30 years of belting up

January 31, 2013 § Leave a comment

volvo-seatbeltcopyStarting with a slight diversion, but today we are marking 30 years since the introduction of compulsory seatbelt-wearing in the UK. Volvo – which  introduced the three-point safety belt as we know it over 50 years ago (pictured) – has commissioned a survey on car safety to celebrate this anniversary. Its 1,200-odd respondents would largely welcome high-tech safety innovations, with over half wanting all-round cameras and 45% pedestrian protecting systems; over half would be happy to be driven by autopilot, and over a quarter would go in a completely autonomous car. More here.

  • The Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR, the German Aerospace Centre) is researching an automated valet parking system at the railway station in Braunschweig. It’s the first step in operationalising its Application Platform for Intelligent Mobility (AIM). and its first tests on public roads; more at Green Car Congress.
  • The number of teenage drivers has fallen 15% in the US state of Michigan over the past decade, reports Detroit News (the total number of drivers has fallen 1.3% in the same period). The paper cites anecdotal evidence to suggest that high insurance costs, the cost of driving lessons and higher petrol prices are factors, as well as fear of driving and the availability of other ways to get around, but also the use of mobile internet; it quotes Michael Sivak of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute as saying: “virtual contact through electronic means reduces the need for actual contact among young people.” His 15-country study (2011) with Brandon Schoettle “found that the percentage of young drivers was inversely related to the availability of the Internet”, and that young people are choosing to live in cities such as San Francisco and New York where there is good public transport. More here at the UMTRI Research Review, October-December 2011; a subsequent update (July 2012) has seen the trend continue.
  • Ride-share service/app Lyft has announced its expansion into Los Angeles, neighbourhood by neighbourhood; some debate on regulation and background checks on members. More at TechCrunch. Plus a reminder from Grist that it’s really not a new idea – nice piece about the long-running low/no-tech informal ‘slugging’ system in Washington, DC. And incidentally, I love these photographs by Alejandro Cartagena of  ”car-poolers” (working people grabbing a lift with colleagues in the back of pick-up trucks) in Mexico – evocative social commentary, and another example of economy-driven informal shared transport networks which have been around nearly as long as motoring itself.
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