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Clean Tech, Projects

Green transportation is a rapidly growing trend right now. Governments are investing in developing and building infrastructures that will replace, or at least reduce, the use of conventional means of transportation. Bicycles are the greenest mean of transportation, and many cities are trying to introduce and boost the “bike culture” by creating bicycle lanes, parking areas for bicycles or even bike rental stations in strategic points such as city centers or underground stations. Although this culture is spreading at the moment all around the world, the reality is that the bike culture is so much stronger in the northern part of Europe.

Poland is considered at the moment one of the most bike-friendly countries because of its extensive network of cycling lane, which connects several cities all across the country. The culture of cycling is increasing rapidly because of its citizens’ interest in this green transportation. In fact, the 2014 edition of The European Cycling Challenge, the top five cities were mostly Polish because they have better equipped lanes and paths.

Recently, Poland unveiled an innovative bike lane near Lidzbark Warminski in the Mazury region. It is a 100-meters path that is capable of illuminating more that 10 hours during the night thanks to blue luminophores, a synthetic material that emits light after being charged during the day from solar power. Although it is more expensive due to the material, the solar power bike lane is safer than a conventional roadway and is considered one of the best ways to increase cyclist safety thus saving lives. The solar power system is still in testing stage and the company behind the project expects to have the bike lane installed in Warsaw in the next few months. Experts are now working on researching how to optimize production costs so that the technology can spread further.

A pretty similar solar-powered bike path in the Netherlands inspirited the engineers of this project. Although both bike paths look similar the idea is completely different, while the Dutch path requires solar-powered LEDs on cloudy days, the Polish bike lane does no require additional power supply what means it is completely green.

Apart from Polish innovative bike lanes, other cities have already developed better systems to promote the use of the bicycles between cities. For instance, in Copenhagen a two-lane overpass was built to connect the extensive network of bicycle paths providing safer routers for riders. Next in San Sebastian, located in the north of Spain, they turned an abandoned railroad tunnel into the longest cycling path in the world. Finally, Tokyo was the first country to install escalators for cyclist thus allowing them to reach remote destinations.

By mixing transportation and technology, cities could become greener and there are not doubts that the solar-powered bike lane is one of the first steps for reaching the objective for a more eco-friendly life.

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Gadgets

Earlier this year, the California’s Department of Motor Vehicles submitted a draft bill stating that self-driving cars that had no steering wheel or pedals would need a licensed driver to use public roads. This proposal was not well received by car and technology industry and experts described the proposed rules as extremely restrictive. According to Google the requirements defeat the purpose of autonomous vehicles for groups that might benefit the most, such as disabled people.

Last week, the same Department released a revised draft in which Californian authority amended driverless car rules and allowed these innovative cars to use public roads as long as they meet a number of requirements to ensure traffic security. For instance, self-driving cars could not go faster than 35 miles per hour and they will only operate in approved areas such as business parks and controlled environment with less traffic than busy urban streets. Furthermore automakers will need to document how the car detects and avoids objects and pedestrians, how hardened it is against cyber attacks and how its backup systems would cope if the software were to fail. Driverless cars were banned in California at the first, but other States such as Florida, Nevada, Michigan, Hawaii, Washington and Tennessee have already enacted laws to use or test self-driving vehicles on public roads.

Self-Driving vehicles are provided with sensors capable of detecting objects as far as two football fields away in all directions, with electric batteries which power the vehicle, with computers designed specially for self-driving and back-up systems for steering, braking and computing among other functions. The interior is designed for riding not for driving and its rounded shape allows the car to maximize sensor field of view. It is estimated that around 94% of accidents in the United States are due to human errors. According to several industry experts, the percentage of deaths because of traffic accidents could be reduced drastically by introducing driverless cars in the day-to-day life.

Despite a variety of opinions about safety and advantage or disadvantage of driverless cars, the reality is that one of these vehicles already saved a man’s life last August by taking him to the hospital after suffering a pulmonary embolism. He started feeling that he was not able to breathe and instead of calling and ambulance, which would be slower, he set the autopilot autonomous driving function and he was drove to the closest hospital.

Driverless cars will impact our life for sure in the next few years because they make driving more efficient on all fronts. Roads would not only be safer but also traffic and fuel efficiency will greatly improve. It is believed that traffic congestion is also expected to decrease which will allow people to have more free time.

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Clean Tech, Economy, Gadgets

The traditional concept of city has changed in the last few years because of the quick development of technology and the new lifestyles, which people are demanding. The reality is that cities are the engine of economic growth and for that reason many people are currently moving to big cities in order to find new opportunities and better life conditions. It is expected that almost 70% of the world’s population will live in urban centers by 2050 and that is why cities all around the world are seeking to create more efficient and sustainable ways to operate by providing integrate sensors, buildings, facilities and innovative transportation and infrastructure.

Smart cities use information and communication technologies to be more intelligent and efficient in the use of sources, resulting in cost and energy savings, improved service delivery and quality of life. Smart Cities also develop new business models, which satisfy citizens’ new and specific needs; operate urban infrastructure more efficiently and automatically; reduce expenses drastically; improve the city environment by creating more green and leisure spaces and encourage the Internet of Things, that is, the inter-networking of physical devices, vehicles, buildings and other items with electronics, software, sensors and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data.

Some cities such as Singapore, Barcelona, London, San Francisco or Oslo have already incorporated these technologies and they are considered the world’s smartest cities. Although the most important elements in smart cities are transportation and energy, those cities have experienced improvements in different aspects. Singapore, for instance, has already deployed cameras and sensors to track traffic and check that people do not smoke in unauthorized areas. Barcelona and London have installed smart parking technology as well as sensors for monitoring air quality and noise and wireless routers which are capable of expanding a network of free Wi-Fi in public spaces. San Francisco has focused their efforts in sorting out the traffic problems and it is also a city that highlights due to contactless payment. Oslo, the capital of one of the wealthiest cities in the world, has made strides in using information technology to curb energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

The future is about smart cities and the next few years will be critical for its design and construction. Households, factories and public buildings will generate their own electricity from renewable sources, using the excess space in walls, roofs and windows. These connected devices will store any excess energy in batteries and then they will able to feed the energy grid. Smart homes will also use smart thermostats, which will adapt the heating temperature automatically and save energy. Furthermore, real time traffic data streams, car sharing schemes and mobile parking apps will decrease road traffic, emissions and time wasted. Transport apps will use real time traffic and public transport data to offer citizens the quickest route to their destination.

The cities of future will look very similar in terms of fabric but the way of interacting will be pretty different, artificial intelligence, robots and driverless cars will be part of the day-by-day life.

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