Here’s the thing: When you look past the app upgrades, vehicle modifications and press releases filled with terms seemingly picked out of a Ph.D. dissertation, you start to realize these models of getting around truly are game-changing, but not because of the computer code behind them.
Technological breakthroughs may make headlines (and getting the tech right is important, as Elon Musk’s latest travails show), but looking a layer deeper at how that technology will affect the lives of real, everyday people often leads to more interesting tales.
Take these three stories from Season 1:
- In Dearborn, Mich., one of Ford Motor Co.’s former IT professionals turned mobility manager is doing the painstaking work of upgrading its employee shuttle system from the walkie-talkie and clipboard service it’s used for at least a decade. (Episode 3: “Third Age”)
- In Santa Monica, Calif., a 23-year-old CEO of car-sharing company WaiveCar is trying to bring the cost of transportation down to zero. His groundbreaking idea? Slapping billboards on car-share vehicles and using geographic data to offer advertisers better targeting for messages. (Episode 4: “Visions of Mobility”)
- In the heart of the auto-tech boom, San Francisco, a Lyft executive ponders what will happen to the trust between riders and chauffeurs when self-driving technology removes the latter. (Episode 6: “The Ownerless Car”)
Now, let’s divide the old from the new. Company shuttles aren’t new, and neither is advertising on cars or the mechanics of what is basically a taxi ride. Technology may tie these three together in the loosely defined realm of mobility, but, at least for me, it’s the human consequences of the work that fascinates.
At Ford, the company is trying to solve the fundamental issue of getting employees across a sprawling suburban campus to meetings on time. At WaiveCar, a fresh face is trying to play Robin Hood by getting rich advertisers to pay for regular people’s daily commute. At Lyft, designers are starting with a basic question: How do we ensure trust, comfort and communication without a human connection?
In “Futurismo,” you’ll hear about the latest breakthroughs in technology and transportation design, but we don’t leave it there. We go a step further and ponder what these breakthroughs mean for the parent struggling to get their kid to school, or the car fanatic who just wants to race a Mazda MX-5 Miata on weekends.
Listen to all of Season 1 above, or by clicking here.