Information technology can be used to infuse previously inefficient systems with new intelligence, allowing them to behave in new, smarter ways. One area likely to be impacted is public transportation. Bus lines that can self-organize to meet rider demands are an exciting glimpse of what is to come, yet the possibilities are many and varied. The Mobile Experience Lab organized an idea-generating workshop to explore opportunities for smart mobility solutions.
Information technology will soon enable ubiquitous access to any information people require, when and where they require it. This mindset and expectation can be extended to the physical world where public transportation systems might one day give ubiquitous access to urban territory. Working with RATP–Autonomous Transit Authority of Paris–the MIT Mobile Experience Lab organized an idea-generating workshop to explore how the way people move within the city changes with the development of transportation systems, information, and communication technologies.
The Smart Mobility workshop focused primarily on the urban bus line as part of a larger global transportation ecosystem consisting of rail, metro, bus, car, bike and walking. Re-defining one element of the system requires consideration of the complex mutual relationships between the components. With these considerations in mind, workshop participants envisioned a number of concepts for the role of a bus line in the future.
The Self-Organizing Bus System was a scenario in which a bus system would be able shed its traditionally rigid schedule and become intelligently self-organizing. Reconfiguring the Bus transformed buses into mobile network nodes, so that passengers could be connected for guidance, entertainment and mobile work. Electronic Guimard described a bus system with a traditionally distinct character, but enhanced through smart capabilities and electronic displays. Finally, the bus as Neighborhood Concierge positioned the bus as a landmark that would distinguish and characterize its neighborhood.