Disrupting Mobility Summit

Our current mobility systems face tremendous change given the emergence of autonomous vehicles, drones, the electrification of transportation, and the sharing economy. The Disrupting Mobility Summit (November 11-13 at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, MA) explores the technologies and social trends that have the potential to fundamentally change the way we move. With more than 300 guests from academia, industry and the public sector, the Disrupting Mobility Summit provides an overview of state-of-the-art research, and a platform for policy leaders and industry experts at the forefront of mobility disruption.

The event is co-hosted by MIT, UC Berkeley, London School of Economics and WZB Berlin Social Science. Featured speakers include Dan Doctoroff (Sidewalk Labs), Edward Glaeser (Harvard University), Victor Mendez (U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation), Nicholas Negroponte (co-founder, MIT Media Lab)Janette Sadik-Khan (Bloomberg Associates), Shoshana Zuboff (Harvard Business School) and Raffaello D’Andrea (ETH Zurich), and many others.

Partners and sponsors of the Disrupting Mobility Summit are: Zipcar, Enterprise CarShare, Ridescout, BCycle, Bridj, Lyft, Hubway, Munich RE, Shared-Use Mobility Center, TransitCenter, Via, Transportation for America, Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft, Stiftung Mercator and the Transporation Research Board.


Disrupting Mobility Summit (Early Bird Registration extended until Sept 30th)


The rise of the shared-economy has completely disrupted existing products and services in the urban mobility space. Peer-to-peer mobility services like Uber and Lyft have challenged the taxi, livery, car share, and mass-transit establishment. Disruptive innovations like this have the power to not only redefine industries, it can bankrupt companies as well. The shift from analog to digital cameras eventually led to the demise of Polaroid. The mass adoption of personal computing saw the end of industrial manufacturers like Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). Technologies like VHS tapes, landlines, and even encyclopedias all have been uprooted with the introduction of new technologies. More recently, Airbnb has disrupted the travel and hotel industry by increasing the supply of options for people to stay and providing matching services. The Disruptive Mobility Summit brings together leaders from academia, industry, and government to discuss the role of disruptive innovations within the mobility networks. 

The MIT Media Lab along with U.C. Berkeley and the London School of Economics invites you to participate at this event held in Cambridge, MA on November 11-13th, 2015.  Confirmed speakers include Dan Doctoroff (Sidewalk Labs), Edward Glaeser (Harvard University), Janette Sadik-Khan (Bloomberg Associates), Raffaello D'Andrea (ETH), and many others.  This event also includes a Hackathon on Urban Autonomous Delivery to be held the weekend before the summit (Nov 6-8th).

To register for the summit and/or the hackathon, please go here:


Disrupting Mobility Summit (November 11-13, 2015) held at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, MA, USA.

Disrupting Mobility Summit (November 11-13, 2015) held at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, MA, USA.

CityScope Riyadh

Exploring density, walkability, energy, and daylighting in one of the world’s fastest-growing cities

We recently led a workshop in Saudi Arabia, with staff from the Riyadh Development Authority, to test a new version of our CityScope platform.  With only an hour to work, four teams of five professionals competed to develop a redevelopment proposal for a neighborhood near the city center.   The goal was to achieve the highest scores for three variables:  walkability, building energy performance, and access to daylight.  As participants placed optically tagged Lego bricks on our augmented reality table, the design performance was revealed in real-time by changing color-codes projected onto the pieces, and data displayed on the dashboard.  Fundamentally, the challenge was to achieve an optimal density and mix for commercial and residential buildings.

Riyadh, one of the fastest-growing cities in the world, is an extraordinary place to explore these issues.  In 1940, Riyadh was a small, compact city with a density of approximately 38,000/km2.  Today, Riyadh is a sprawling metropolis of 5.7 million, with roughly 1/8th of the density before oil was tapped and cars took over. Although the city center has high-rise commercial buildings, density steadily declines from the core. Riyadh is experienced as wide streets, traffic congestion, stand alone low-rise buildings in parking lots, and residential neighborhoods with 2-story villas separated from commercial districts. 

Officials realize that Riyadh must reduce the near total dependency on private cars, and the city has started work on an ambitious new subway system.  This will surely help, but it is extraordinarily difficult to serve such a dispersed population with mass transit.  In the long term, Riyadh must address the challenges of extreme urbanization by: 1) creating much higher density, walkable, live-work districts within the city - particularly at the new subway stops, 2) developing largely self-sufficient satellite micro-cities in the outer areas as the city expands, and 3) implementing public policy and new systems that create more convenient alternatives to private automobiles.  CityScope Riyadh is a first step towards an evidence-based, data-driven platform that cities can use to help achieve these goals.

What did we learn from the workshop?

First of all, I was pleased to see the level of engagement, as is revealed in my 30 second video (above). This team was so engrossed in the process that they seemed oblivious to the intrusion of my camera.  Afterwards, the participants reported that the instant feedback, with changing color-codes and data, was extremely valuable.  Each team could immediately understand impact of their decisions on walkability, energy, and daylight as they placed elements on the table.  It encouraged an iterative, collaborative decision-making process. In the discussion that followed, there seemed to be a general frustration with the lack of metrics for evaluating an urban design proposal with traditional media, such as plans and renderings.  There seemed to be an appreciation for the power of such a new tool, even if we just hinted at possibilities.  Not insignificantly, they all appeared to have fun in the process.

Of course, there is much work to do. It is critical that we develop real-time feedback for the impact of density and walkability on traffic congestion.  We must model a range of new mobility modes, such as shared-use autonomous vehicles.  We should work towards the simulation of possible creative interactions and entrepreneurship activities so critical to a successful innovation district.  Eventually, we should be able to predict safe and high-crime zones, or perhaps the GDP of a district.  But CityScope Riyadh is a good first step.

Note: density figures are notoriously problematic: administrative boundaries often include undeveloped land, parks, and industrial areas.   But these figures for Riyadh, even if not precise, reveal the steady trend towards low-density sprawl.


Sprawl vs. Smart-Growth - A Study

The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate just published a study on the effects of urban sprawl. The report not only investigates the costs of sprawl, but also points out benefits of “smart growth”, i.e. compact, mixed and multi-modal developments. Furthermore, it identifies policies that can improve health, safety and wealth in communities.

A glimpse into the future of city halls?

The new ideas on Design, Urban Planning and Policy Making are inspired by the rising of a new type of citizen who is less territorial, more environmental sensitive, and willing to engage in direct public, social discourse. Architecture has historically played an important role in setting up  or breaking down power structures and barriers, both from a symbolic and technical stance. 

An array of interesting examples of new city halls that are mirroring the shift in the way citizens envision political power, and the ways to engage with it, is presented on the guardian: 


The vision described in the article coincides greatly with the Changing Places' vision on Cityscope, particularly the interactive, data intensive aspect of a dynamic observatory that conveys something different from a frozen monumental city view.    

All Night Long: The Impact of Night Delivery

Could we solve a lot of our traffic problems if we delivered more goods at night and took the trucks off the street during the day? Good question that we were thinking about these days and Eric Jaffe just wrote about.

Freight delivery during daytime seems to create a lot of problems for cities. Delivery trucks not only contribute to traffic jams, they also suffer from it. In DC, the cost of truck traffic is about $650 million a year. Off-hour delivery programs (trucks deliver their freight at night rather than during the day) promise to improve the traffic situation, to decrease shipment time, and to improve the air quality.

However the noise from beeping and rumbling trucks during nighttime can seriously impair peoples’ sleep (I have been suffering from that). Eric points out that the noise could be reduced by good practices (not slamming doors) and technologies ("noise-reducing vehicle coatings"). Back-up beepers should be turned off, too.

I would add that it is important to rethink our delivery strategies: In the case of nighttime deliveries it obviously makes sense to incentivize deliveries with little neighborhood impact but high impact on road traffic (these goals might be contradictory). Furthermore, we are currently thinking about new vehicle types, new distribution hubs and new concepts of combining people and goods movement. This might include new bundling strategies, small-scale autonomous vehicles, micro hubs, transformable freight-stations, or new delivery docks on a building scale.

City to City Dialogue: Innovations in Energy and Mobility Affecting the Future of Our Cities

March 12, 2015
Iceland is partnering with the MIT Media Lab and the City Science Initiative to host an energy innovation panel discussion on March 12. The panel will focus on Boston’s and Reykjavik’s efforts in innovating energy for a better future, including the work being done around electric cars and data centers. The Mayor of Reykjavik and executives from Iceland’s national power company, Landsvirkjun, will represent Iceland on this panel. The panel's moderator is Greg Lindsay. Click here to register - tickets are required.

For information on Icelandic Events organized in conjunction with the City-to-City Dialogue please go here

The Implications of Peak Car on Highway Construction

An article in New Geography saw some attention several weeks ago by claiming that we can build our way out of congestion. One particular passage saw the most mileage:

“In a world of peak car, where traffic levels are flat to declining on a per capita basis, induced demand no longer holds court, certainly not to the level claimed by those who believe it’s pointless to build roads.”

Consider this post an answer to that call.

Changing Places Researchers awarded with “10-Year Impact Award” from Ubicomp!

Ling Bao, Emmanuel Munguia Tapia, Kent Larson, and Stephen S. Intille  from our group have been recognized with the “10-Year Impact Award” from Ubicomp 2014 for their two papers:  "Activity Recognition from User-Annotated Acceleration Data" and "Activity Recognition in the Home Using Simple and Ubiquitous Sensors" presented in Vienna in 2004! They received the award at the opening ceremony of the 2014 ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing in Seattle.  


=== Update 9/26/2014 ===

More on the price can be found here: http://ubicomp.org/ubicomp2014/awards.php