Home News Transport Apps Promised to Eliminate Friction. But at What Cost?

Transport Apps Promised to Eliminate Friction. But at What Cost?


In the vision of “frictionless” cities held by many in the tech world, nearly all urban services, human interactions and consumer experiences will be mediated through apps or digital services, not only eliminating the need to deal directly with another person , but putting technology at the heart of these interactions makes no serious attempt to deal with deep-rooted issues—at least outside of rhetorical flamboyance. The decision of venture capitalists to fund companies that are changing the way we travel, consume and everyday life should not be viewed as a neutral move. Instead, they push forward visions of the future in their favor by funding years of efforts by companies to monopolize their industries and lobby for changes to the regulatory structure. Furthermore, their ideas almost always seek to extend the car’s dominance rather than challenge it.

After more than a decade filled with idealized visions of technology-enhanced futures that are not shared in the way their promoters promised, we should consider what futures they are more likely to create. I outline three more realistic scenarios that illustrate the world being created: first, it is more segregated based on income; second, it is more hostile to pedestrians; third, it wants to use irresponsible technological systems to control the way we live more aspects.

Elon Musk’s Green City

There are three main aspects to Musk’s vision (his space colonization plan on hold). The first is electric personal vehicles. Musk believes in “personalized transportation,” which means that cars should continue to be the primary mode of travel, while most of the problems that accompany car-oriented transportation systems should be ignored. However, his vision goes beyond a simple preference for personal vehicles, especially for luxury vehicles. In 2019, Musk unveiled the Cybertruck, an unusual vehicle not because Tesla never built a truck, but because it took styling cues from dystopian science fiction and was designed to fend off Brute force attack. The panels on this car can’t be dented with a sledgehammer and the windows should be bulletproof. While the latter didn’t work in Musk’s public demos, the decision to build these capabilities into an incredibly large vehicle likely speaks to the personal fears that underpin Musk’s future ideas.

The second element of Musk’s vision is the use of solar panels, especially those affixed to suburban homes. After acquiring SolarCity, Musk backed the idea of ​​homeowners generating their own electricity from solar roofs and solar arrays that could be used to charge electric cars, charge home batteries, and possibly even make a profit by powering solar cells. grid. The third and final piece of the puzzle was the Boring Company’s imagined tunnel system, which turned out to be nothing more than narrow underground roads for expensive vehicles equipped with self-driving systems—if they ever materialized. These aspects also suggest that Musk prefers suburban expansion of single-family homes to dense, transit-oriented developments.

If we believe Musk, his vision for a green future will address the climate crisis and many other urban and transportation problems. However, putting these three elements together and considering them in conjunction with the trajectory of our capitalist society reveals a different kind of urban future. Without altering underlying social ties, these technologies may reinforce trends in the growing wealth of tech billionaires and their desire to isolate themselves from the rest of society.

Recall that Musk’s proposed first tunnel was designed to make it easier for him to commute without getting stuck in the way by other people. Such a system could be redeployed as a system designed by the rich and for the rich, rather than a network of tunnels designed for the masses, inaccessible to the public, and connecting only places frequented by the rich: their gated communities, private airports Terminals and other exclusive areas of the city.

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