Here’s why pop culture features so little public transportation

Although I use Chicago's CTA public transportation system virtually every day, it never occurred to me that my experience is relatively underrepresented in pop culture. We don't often see fictional characters utilizing public transportation, at least not to the same extent we see them use other modes of travel, like cars and taxis. This fascinating article from Arlington-based public transportation think tank Mobility Lab offers two explanations for why that is. For one thing, showing characters driving a car allows a TV show or movie to utilize product placement; car companies pay big money to have their vehicles featured onscreen. And for another, it’s a lot more logistically difficult to film on public transportation. But as Mobility Lab notes:

Featuring public transportation on TV shows and movies normalizes it. Characters riding public transportation makes transit another setting–a place where life happens. Seeing it on screen makes it easier to envision it in your life.

You can read the full article—which offers some fascinating stats about filming on both the CTA and New York City’s MTA—over on the Mobility Lab website.

[Photo: Jane The Virgin, The CW/Scott Everett White] Read the rest

Self-driving cars face a huge challenge in detecting bicycles

Self-driving cars have a hard time predicting bicycle movement, and workarounds that require cyclists to buy transmitters are running into resistance from some. Read the rest

Apple, Google add 45 minutes to commuter-bus run to avoid 280 highway, where the buses' windows keep getting smashed

No one's sure how the windows on commuter buses between San Francisco and Silicon Valley keep getting smashed on a stretch of the 280 -- maybe it's a pellet gun, maybe it's thrown rocks -- but Apple and Google have informed employees who use the service that their commute is about to get 45 minutes longer as they take alternate routes to avoid that highway. Read the rest

Why public transportation sucks in the US

"Antiquated technology, safety concerns, crumbling infrastructure, and nonexistence -- it’s not hard to argue that the US public transportation network is just not good. Vast swaths of the US have no option but to drive because the alternative just is not there. This has consequences on the environment, on economic mobility, on where people live, the consequences of America’s lack of solid public transportation almost defines American culture." Wendover Productions explores the reasons why the US is so far behind every other developed country.

It started with the advent of affordable cars and the Great Depression, which caused a decline in railed street cars, and then buses became cheaper than street cars and wiped them out almost entirely. One thing I didn't know before watching this video is that zoning laws in Europe are more relaxed than in the US, allowing for a mix of business and residential properties that encourages public transportation. New US cities like Denver are zoned in a way that forces people to drive. Read the rest

I want these gyro-buses to happen

The engineering firm Dahir Insaat presents the future of transportation: the monorail gyro-bus. It zips along congested urban roadways because it zips over them. But it doesn't fly -- rather, it rides on wheeled stilts. It's got a flywheel inside to keep it from tipping over.

Inventor Dahir Insaat says:

My hope is that this will be the most important transport event of the next two decades. I can say without exaggeration that this mode of transportation is compatible with the human habitat, with the spaces in which city dwellers recreate. It can pass alongside parks, squares, and pedestrian paths, and in some cases it can even ride alongside people strolling down wide boulevards. After all, it is absolutely safe in both ecological and physical terms. It cannot cause serious injury. The most it would do if it hit a person who is standing on the monorail would be to push him out of its way. In a word, Anna Karenina would not have been able to commit suicide if she threw herself in front of a gyro monorail, no matter how much she wanted to.

(Sorry for the Tolstoy spoiler.) Read the rest

An in-depth look at Castle, Waymo's fake city for testing self-driving cars

Alexis Madrigal got a chance to visit the fascinating town of Castle, a roads-only city constructed by Waymo for the sole purpose of developing self-driving cars. Read the rest

Incredible first-person video of Elon Musk's Hyperloop accelerating to 200 mph

The winner of yesterday's SpaceX Hyperloop Pod design competition was the WARR Hyperloop. Built by students at the Technical University of Munich, it hit 324 Km/h (~201 mph). First-person video below.

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Driving before, during, and after rush hour: city maps of how far you'd get

Location platform Here Technologies calculated how far one hour of driving can take drivers out of major American cities starting on Friday at 4, 7, and 10 pm. Read the rest

Watch this stylish electric bike zoom through the countryside

This gorgeous Avionics electric bike prototype mixes modern technology with the classic style of early gas-powered motorcycles. Read the rest

Uber threatens to leave Seattle if drivers can unionize; drivers rejoice

The City of Seattle voted to allow Uber drivers to form a union, and Uber says that if its court challenge to the rule is unsuccessful, it might leave Seattle. Read the rest

Watch subway cars align as train goes around a bend

This Inception-like moment as all the doorways form a straight line is both satisfying and mesmerizing. Read the rest

This maglev quadcopter hints at transportation's future

Hyperloop One engineers demonstrate the power of maglev using spinning arrays atop a copper plate. Despite weighing over 100 pounds, the gadget floats and could hold considerably more weight. Read the rest

Tesla announces full self-driving hardware on all models

Tesla released a video of a commute from home to office, including parking as a demonstration of its fully self-driving hardware. "The person in the driver's seat is only there for legal reasons. He is not doing anything. The car is driving itself."

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Real life clown car of commuters in Russia

I'm glad the fellow found room for his accordion. Video titled "Bashkir team goes to work."

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Build your own private gyrocopter

Frequently seen in the pages of 1950s-era Popular Mechanics magazines, the Bensen B-8 was a small gyrocopter that was in production until 1987. Download the plans and build your own two-person gyrocpter fleet to compete with Uber and Lyft!

(via Weird Universe)

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China tests straddling bus that travels above traffic

China's Transit Elevated Bus (TEB), a trippy transport that straddles the traffic below it, had its first test run yesterday in Qinhuangdao, Hebei province. It was a very short trip, just 300 meters. According to Shanghaiist, an engineer on the project says that eventually the TEB "will be able to carry up to 1,200 passengers and travel at 60 kilometers per hour." It's expected to take one year to build out a practical version.

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Pallet skating on a city's trolley tracks

And they said the Segway would change the way we moved through cities! Video of pallet skating in Bratislava, Slovakia by Tomáš Moravec.

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