Dave Roberts has a nice piece up at the Prospect reviewing two books on driving, which includes this passage:
Moreover, all USVs [urban small vehicles] will be GPS and Internet-connected. Think of the location–specific services an iPhone offers, from maps and directions to restaurant suggestions to hyper-local news. Now imagine a similar range of apps for a vehicle that’s receiving real-time information about road congestion, parking availability, and the latest box scores. Imagine the benefit to traffic planners of having information about the location and trajectory of every vehicle (encrypted, say the authors, but their discussion of privacy issues is cursory at best).
This “Mobility Internet” could lead to the same kind of innovation unleashed by the Internet itself. Among other things, it could enable a revolution in civic management of road, parking, and power services. Currently the large majority of roads and a great deal of parking is free, and as any economist will tell you, an unpriced resource will be overused. Sure enough, road and parking demand frequently exceed supply, leading to congestion, a good chunk of which, Traffic reminds us, is created by people driving around looking for parking (”parking foreplay” also causes one in five urban collisions). Although power isn’t free, it’s generally sold at a flat rate, leaving consumers no way of knowing when it’s most valuable.
Toll roads and congestion charges are crude attempts to change the situation. Once the devices that consume road, parking, and power services are connected to the Internet, however, cities can institute variable, real-time, citywide pricing for those resources, based on the balance of supply and demand moment to moment. This could radically increase the productivity of resource use, compensating at least in part for the expense of building these systems. Cities would become more like organisms, their subsystems controlled and coordinated by a unified nervous system. (Water and sewage systems could be integrated to the digital grid as well and even used as backup energy storage — but that’s another story.)
VMT Tax: there’s an app for that.
Sustainable Cities Collective