If we know one thing about how technology is changing urban mobility, we know that autonomous vehicles are going to be a revolutionary force.
If we know two things, however, it is that we don’t know much beyond that about AVs. How they’ll be adopted, what affects they’ll have on cities, when they’ll arrive, what we should be doing about them — all of these outcomes are highly uncertain. This uncertainty often leads to irrational optimism, unnecessary pessimism, or a misplaced focus on things that aren’t as important as they might seem.
Public spaces make urban life unique. While suburban destinations often try, they can’t recreate the vibrancy, spontaneous interaction, and diversity you find in Millennium Park, Rittenhouse Square, Grand Central Terminal, or on Piccadilly. In part, this comes from the fact that urban dwellers spend far more of their time in shared spaces than people who live in lower-density areas. So there’s no question that making these spaces work well is critical to the long-term success of cities.
This post was co-written with Sidewalk Labs Advisor Jim Kapsis.
In response to the Trump administration’s recent announcement to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement, city leaders have boldly reaffirmed their commitment to local climate action. Cities have long been vocal climate advocates through efforts like C40 and Climate Mayors, but as former D.C. energy director Sam Brooks recently pointed out, they still have a long way to go to achieve their ambitious targets.
It’s well understood that in most U.S. cities, the largest area of energy consumption is in buildings, which is one reason that energy…
Last week, I shared the results of an effort we undertook at Sidewalk Labs to think through the first principles of urbanism. To recap, we concluded that urbanism is basically density. Yes, yes — big shocker. But the more significant takeaway is that what makes cities more or less attractive over time is how the efficiencies of density balance against the costs of density. Call it, if you will, the trade-off between good friction and bad friction.
The efficiencies were these:
I’ve always thought of myself as an urbanist. I’ve studied urban history. I’ve been an official at a big city government. I’ve helped lead a global organization of mayors.
So it’s a little surprising that today I find myself part of a technology firm, Sidewalk Labs. Our mission at Sidewalk is to develop technology that makes urban life better, in part by bridging the gap between technologists and urbanists. Our CEO, Dan Doctoroff, likes to point out that urbanists and technologist don’t speak the same language. So often when I walk into my office I feel like a stranger in…
The world of technology rarely seems to focus on the United Nations. And although the U.N. has made efforts to use technology, the world of diplomacy doesn’t tend to connect well with the tech world.
This is an understandable divide. Global diplomatic institutions often move at a glacial pace compared with that of the technology industry. Further, the consumer-focused tech world can seem irrelevant to the very serious, typically very low-tech issues that occupy much of the United Nations’ time.
Today, in New York City, the world’s leaders will sign the landmark climate change accord they agreed to last December in Paris. At the same time, New York City will release its annual progress report on sustainability, and its greenhouse gas inventory for 2014.
The two acts are intimately related. They remind us not just how important good data is to good policy, but how difficult it can still be to get actionable data at the city level.
Head of Urban Systems@sidewalklabs