Automobiles in Growing Economies of the Developing World - Driving Miss Daisy Digitally
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Automobiles in Growing Economies of the Developing World A word of warning from inveterate traveler Ralph Gakenheimer: Never ride a bicycle around downtown Shanghai. The explosive growth of cars has resulted “in mayhem” for cyclists and pedestrians. In China, there are 1.8 bikes per family, yet municipal governments eager to encourage industrial growth repress bicycles in favor of cars. Air and noise pollution are increasing all over China, much of Asia, and India, as cities double in size every few decades, sprawl over surrounding countryside, and citizens flock to motorized transport. Gakenheimer encourages testing out “congestion pricing”— taxing the use of the densest roads at the most traveled times to regulate flow and create order; bus rapid transit systems to “help keep city centers alive;” and land use planning to contain the spread of cities over agricultural lands and natural resources. Driving Miss Daisy Digitally The good news, says Joseph Coughlin, is that Americans live longer. The bad news is we will have increasing difficulty getting around in cars. This is especially unfortunate because, as Coughlin has learned at the MIT AgeLab, senior citizens link driving to emotional and mental health. “If you feel well, have disposable income and have an education, you’re going to want to get out and do something,” says Coughlin. Greater numbers of Americans live beyond retirement age, and most are “safe drivers” in spite of such inevitable infirmities as reduced vision, impaired hearing, decreased strength and flexibility, and attention and perception deficits. But, says Coughlin, the auto industry designs its cars primarily for young people. He believes, “If cars are designed as they are today, the number of older adults who will be dying on American highways … will be the same as attributed to alcohol-related deaths.” Instead of gadget-laden speedsters, Coughlin imagines vehicles where innovative technology supports rather than confounds the older driver.
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