UX Book Reviews

Reinventing the Automobile – William Mitchell, Chris Borroni-Bird and Lawrence Burns

Last month’s reading challenge book coincided with press releases from the Detroit motor show about autonomous driving. BMW displayed a car that can drift through corners without a driver,equipped with a novel feature that can bring a vehicle “back into line in demanding driving situations without any input from the driver”, using 360-degree radars, cameras and ultrasonic sensors.

I have to admit all this buzz about driverless cars, and autonomous vehicles has got me really excited to ‘dive’ into this next book.

Reinventing the automobile 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

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I enjoyed this book, even though I have to admit, it is not one of those that you pick up and read from  start to end. I particularly enjoyed certain sections, especially the ones dedicated to the theme of the design and all the futuristic ideas. So what would cars be like if they were taking full advantage of technology and were optimised for urban use? The authors claim that they would be much smaller(designed for the typical load of one or two people) and they would be safer due to the addition of sensors and software. They would also  energy-efficient zero-emission electric vehicles and they would be as helpful and informative as iPhones. The authors make a convincing case that these cars are possible with today’s technology, and that cities would be cleaner, safer, and would need less space dedicated to parking lots and roads.

I particularly enjoyed chapter 3, about mobility internet where the authors talk about design issues and challenges of networked computing and control for urban automobiles and personal mobility systems, such as reliability of two-way connectivity, scalability, distribution of computation and control and location privacy.

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I think this book is exciting and offers a view of the future lifestyle with digital connectivity and cutting-edge automotive engineering. I think this book would be interesting to scholars and practitioners of city planning and urban transportation as well as the hardcore fans of electric cars and definitely anyone who is interested in the new age of sustainable design.

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