Mikael Eriksson Björling

Things that matters! About digital transformation, design, creativity and lifestyle in the Networked Society



Can Motor City become Bike City? The reinvention of Detroit.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to visit Detroit. It is a fascinating city facing many challenges getting on its feet again, which makes it a really interesting place to visit if you want to study entrepreneurship and creativity. My reason for being there was to study the progress of a city trying to redefine its post-industrial self.

What I found in Detroit were super friendly people and a forward-looking spirit. If you don’t know much about the city, Detroit was the epicenter of the 20th century automobile manufacturing industry, with the “Big Three” (Ford, General Motors and Chrysler) are still present in the city where Ford Motor Company more or less invented the assembly line principles that served as a cornerstone of the postwar mass consumption society. (It’s also notable that Detroit Electric produced a fully electrical car here between 1907 and 1939.)

The city’s population peaked in 1950 with 2 million inhabitants, and as car manufacturing became increasingly automatized and other work was offshored to other countries, the population declined year by year and is now around 700,000 citizens, with 75,000 dilapidated buildings and only 60 percent of the street lights in working condition. Last year the city declared bankruptcy and a couple of weeks ago while I was there, the city’s debts were restructured.

Many people have, of course, lost their homes, lost their jobs and suffered a lot over the past decades. But what is so interesting is that the destruction of the old Detroit has also fed a lot of creativity and new innovative businesses. Right now, for instance, there is a strong bike movement in the Motor City.

I met with Bike Detroit, a community-based non-profit organization focused on clearing and cleaning bike trails in Detroit and nearby suburban areas.  Slow Roll is another organization working to establish and develop a bicycle culture through group bicycle rides where several thousand people bike together slowly on new paths every Monday. Then you can also find craftsmanship companies like Shinola and Detroit Bikes that build craft bicycles in old factory facilities. It seem like the Motown is on its way to becoming Biketown.

What about the old motor industry? Read the rest of the port at the Networked Society blog.

Cooperative transport systems – the next step in transport transformation – part 2

In my previous post I wrote about how connectivity is driving transformation in the transport business and how it’s now being built-in everything from cars and trucks to roads and parking spaces. The next phase in this transformation will be about cooperation between all these new connected transport assets.

This cooperation will span across all transport means, from car to bike. We will see cooperative systems with vehicle-to-vehicle communication to prevent accidents by sensing each other. There will be systems for adjusting traffic flows and prices in real-time, depending on the situation and demand. We will see smart cooperation between all means of transportation where commuters can plan, travel and pay seamlessly across public and private transportation services.

Another area that will become common the next ten years is autonomous vehicles. That could be self-driving cars for city commuters or drones delivering groceries to the door. This paves the way for more radical changes in how we look at transportation. Why own a car when it does not have a steering wheel and you can get a nice one according to your preferences whenever you need it? Read the rest of the article at the Networked Society blog.

Cooperative transport systems – the next step in transport transformation

Today about 50 percent of the world’s population lives in cities. Most people need transport every day – to and from work, to pick the kids up at school, to go to an evening course or to meet some friends. People spend on average 2 hours and 20 minutes commuting every day in big cities like Hong Kong, London or Moscow.

But even if you stay at home, most things that you use or consume in your everyday life have done their fair bit on the road, sea or in the air. The transportation of people and the logistic networks for transporting goods are a fundamental part of the world economy, and things are about to change in this field in a big way.

What we see happening right now is that connectivity is starting to change how transportation is done. Right now regular people and startup businesses are the drivers for change, focused on new transport services connecting free transport capacity with transport demands. Services like Lyft and Uber for personal transportation, BlaBla Car and Zip Car for rideshares. This development is leading many to question the necessity of private car ownership. However, if you are a car owner, you could turn that into a business by renting out your overcapacity to people in a need of a car, using services like RelayRides or Getaround.

Another movement driving change is crowdsourced data. Traffic management apps like Waze and Moovit now allow people, businesses and city governments to streamline their use of public infrastructure in real time.

The digital connectivity of these services opens up transport assets and information to more people, at more times and in more forms. Continue reading at the Networked Society blog.

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