This book provides a long-overdue vision for a new automobile era. The cars we drive today follow the same underlying design principles as the Model Ts of a hundred years ago and the tail-finned sedans of fifty years ago. In the twenty-first century, cars are still made for twentieth-century purposes. They're well suited for conveying multiple passengers over long distances at high speeds, but inefficient for providing personal mobility within cities—where most of the world's people now live. In this pathbreaking book, William Mitchell and two industry experts reimagine the automobile, describing vehicles of the near future that are green, smart, connected, and fun to drive. They roll out four big ideas that will make this both feasible and timely.
First, we must transform the DNA of the automobile, basing it on electric-drive and wireless communication rather than on petroleum, the internal combustion engine, and stand-alone operation. This allows vehicles to become lighter, cleaner, and "smart" enough to avoid crashes and traffic jams. Second, automobiles need to be linked by a Mobility Internet that allows them to collect and share data on traffic conditions, intelligently coordinates their movements, and keeps drivers connected to their social networks. Third, automobiles must be recharged through a convenient, cost-effective infrastructure that is integrated with smart electric grids and makes increasing use of renewable energy sources. Finally, dynamically priced markets for electricity, road space, parking space, and shared-use vehicles must be introduced to provide optimum management of urban mobility and energy systems.
The fundamental reinvention of the automobile won't be easy, but it is an urgent necessity—to make urban mobility more convenient and sustainable, to make cities more livable, and to help bring the automobile industry out of crisis.
Four Big Ideas That Could Transform the Automobile:
- Base the underlying design principles on electric-drive and wireless communications rather than the internal combustion engine and stand-alone operation
- Develop the Mobility Internet for sharing traffic and travel data
- Integrate electric-drive vehicles with smart electric grids that use clean, renewable energy sources
- Establish dynamically priced markets for electricity, road space, parking space, and shared-use vehicles
About the Authors
William J. Mitchell was the Alexander W. Dreyfoos, Jr., Professor of Architecture and Media Arts and Sciences and directed the Smart Cities research group at MIT's Media Lab. He authored many books, including The World's Greatest Architect (2008) and Placing Words: Symbols, Space, and the City (2005), both published by the MIT Press.
Christopher Borroni-Bird is GM’s Director of Advanced Technology Vehicle Concepts. His innovative projects at GM include the AUTOnomy, Hy-wire, and Sequel concepts and the current Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility (P.U.M.A.) initiative. He was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame as a Young Leader in 2000.
Lawrence D. Burns advises companies, governments, and universities on transportation, energy, and communications systems and technology. As Vice President of Research and Development at General Motors from 1998 to 2009, he was a major global voice for the reinvention of the automobile and the diversification of transportation energy, overseeing a series of innovative concept vehicles.
“The content is intelligent, well laid out, entertaining, understandable, and approachable...Often, works about the future of the automobile industry are just tools to express idealistic beliefs or anti-industry sentiments. This book is refreshing because the authors understand the whole package in terms of current problems, and their solutions, and succinctly present a glimpse of a future (and a present) that people can feel good about.” — C.J. Myers, Choice
"We are at the threshold of a new era of urban transport. Reinventing the Automobile offers a breathtaking vista of the opportunities ahead. Mitchell, Borroni-Bird, and Burns combine their great engineering expertise, design skills, and practical experience to create a dazzling vision of a new urban transport system to support healthy, productive, safe, and environmentally sustainable cities in the 21st century. The book is consistently exciting, a wonderful chance to peer over the shoulders of masters as they sort through the complex terrain of energy systems, urban lifestyles, digital connectivity, and cutting-edge automotive engineering. This book will fascinate and inspire not only specialists in transport and engineering, but everybody interested in the new age of sustainable development."
Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Special Advisor to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon
"Mitchell, Borroni-Bird, and Burns have created a blueprint for sustainable urban mobility. Reinventing the Automobile will fundamentally change the way we approach transportation design. Every car company should take note: evolve or face increasing irrelevance."
David Kelley, Founder & Chairman, IDEO, and Professor, Stanford University
"Our American auto industry is at a perilous crossroadsit can adhere to the 'old ways' and perish or it can leapfrog the competition, reinvent itself, and lead the automotive world into 21st century. Many of the ideas set forth in this book just might serve as a blueprint for this much-needed and important change of direction. Who better to lead the way than our geek brethren from MIT?"
Tom and Ray Magliozzi, aka "Click and Clack," Hosts of Car Talk
"It isn't technological barriers so much as closed minds that are holding back the necessary evolution of the automobile; using calm and devastatingly inarguable logic, this is a virtual step-by-step manual that deploys an original idea on every page to show exactly how it can and should be achieved. If you care about cars, read this book: it opens your mind and lets the future in."
Bruce McCall, The New Yorker
"Finally, a book that addresses the problems of carbon emissions, sustainability, transportation, city planning, and traffic, by authors who understand what the automobile industry does notthat these issues are all interconnected and part of the same picture. This book has a great deal to offer to anyone who is interested in the green movement in architecture, in city planning, in traffic problems, in pollution, and in the challenge of making our planet more humane."
"In this book, William Mitchell, perhaps the greatest urban theorist and designer of the Information Age, provides a concrete alternative to the unsustainable model of urban transportation based on the traditional automobile, and paves the way for the transformation of the automobile industry as a whole. In this time of crisis Reinventing the Automobile is mandatory reading, besides researchers and students, for planners, industrialists, and governments searching for a way out for the car of the industrial era."
Manuel Castells, Professor Emeritus of City Planning, University of California, Berkeley
CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title, 2010.