With BBC’s reporting of BlackFly, the latest attempt at a flying car, it is time to give these innovations a name. Jetson Infrastructure is infrastructure that is based on a vision for the future that whilst it may be technically possible, will not be delivered for some time. By contrast Real World Infrastructure is infrastructure that can be delivered with existing technology today to solve real world problems. A bit tongue in cheek, but in a contest Real World Infrastructure easily beats Jetsons Infrastructure. Yes we should continue to invest in new ideas for the future, but let’s not lose focus on where we can actually make huge social, environmental and economic benefits today.
The vision is of individual parcels delivered from point to point effectively bypassing congestion.
This would require changes to aviation laws. Opposition likely to come from households who won’t like drones flying over-head.
REAL WORLD: Instead of need to deliver parcels via drones we are already seeing innovation around pick up parcels. Amazon are building their own logistics. Australia Post have partnered in Australia to establish pick up points at 7-11 and other places. An alternative to drone delivery is pricing where consumer can pay for delivery to a distribution point, or delivery to home, with delivery to home would cost more.
The vision is of everyone with a driverless car, potentially avoiding new investment in infrastructure, with journeys more efficient as driver can do other things.
Driverless cars not only require perfection of the technology but implementation of supporting technology on road systems. Driving regulations need to change to allow drivers to take hands of wheel.
REAL WORLD: driverless technology is already being used in a whole range of industrial applications such as ports, agriculture and mining. There are huge benefits to be had, but the significant productivity benefits will be from implementation of technology in industrial applications.
FIRST TO LIVE IN SPACE
Billionaires (Bezos and Musk in particular) are spending huge amounts of money to experiment with new technology with the objective of being able to live in space and habit a planet. The theory is that in the long term Earth may not be habitable and the human race should not perish. A huge amount of finite resources are expended in experimentation for this quest.
REAL WORLD: As billionaires invest in space we have a waste management crisis. Societies have not built waste management eco-system that is sustainable. A huge amount of waste goes to landfill every year. There is a need to focus on waste management infrastructure and supporting market structures which can deliver significant environmental and social benefits.
MOBILITY AS A SERVICE
The vision is of a world where mobility is connected so that every part of a journey can be seamlessly managed from a device. Public and private journeys are interchangeable. Lots of experimentation is going on to get the right models. Some is working. Some isn’t. An example is the bike sharing company that recently got kicked out of Melbourne after its bikes ended up dumped in the Yarra….
REAL WORLD: Technology has no doubt changed but there is actually a long history of consumers interchanging public and private modes. Best practice now is where information service apps are providing real time information to consumers to inform their decisions. Real time information helps identify bottlenecks and increase pressure for government to address quickly. Building infrastructure before settlements, fast regional travel can also take pressure of congested cities. There is also the potential to use incentives to shift people from peak travel to avoid peak congestion.
Vision is of a world where the rooftops of city buildings are covered in solar panels. The problem is that the floor plates of city buildings are small and buildings often subject to shade. Therefore they are not that efficient producers of solar energy.
REAL WORLD: Remote applications of solar, particularly in off-grid mining are growing and have potential to save millions of litres of diesel. Productivity benefits of off-grid solar are immediate with potential to expand to agriculture. Reduced demand for diesel also directly improves energy security.
Links: The BlackFly…. https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-44805697