Mobile app will be used to create communities in controversial new Indian city

A mobile app that explores what effect sustainable design, mobility and access to nature have on living standards is being used in the planning of a new city currently being constructed in India.

The city of Lavasa is a private sector-led urban development in the Indian state of Maharashtra. It is approximately 130 miles from Mumbai and will eventually be home to some 300,000 people.

Two researchers from the University of Birmingham, Dr. Sophie Hadfield-Hill and Dr. Cristiana Zara, spent a year living in Lavasa; gathering data on children, young people (aged 5-23) and their families experiences of everyday life to find out how to make the city citizen-friendly and sustainable.

“Children and families are hugely affected by urban change and have much to offer in terms of their vision for urban living,” said Hadfield-Hill, lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Birmingham.

“This research has provided space for detailed ethnographic insights into the everyday experiences of urban transformation. With the Indian government putting plans in motion for a portfolio of smart city initiatives, the recommendations proposed by the project are timely.”

Image courtesy of Arjun Singh Kulkarni. Featured image courtesy of Yoursamrut

Thanks to the research, which was conducted as part of the New Urbanisms in India: Urban Living, Sustainability and Everyday Life project, a series of core themes emerged about what a modern city needs.

The study concluded schools should be placed at the heart of urban planning, all areas should be accessible by road and footpath and shared spaces should be included so people can meet, eat, walk and play together.

These findings were used by the researchers and city planners, with the help of of 130 young people, to build a model of the new city that reflected the study’s findings and will influence the future development of Lavasa.

Image courtesy of Ankur P

Previously, Lavasa has been known for controversy. Construction was halted in 2013 because the project violated environmental laws, and even residents were unclear how organic communities would develop.

“I wouldn’t live here if I wasn’t working here,” said Lavasa resident Sakrita Koshti in an interview with the Guardian. “The main reason is there are no schools out here. If I get married and have children, they cannot get settled here in Lavasa.”

The mobile app that was used during the research – called Map my Community – will now be used in used in Delhi to map informal settlements and advocate for improved living conditions for children and their families.

The original study is available here.

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Renault unveils unorthodox ‘car of the future’: a dockable, peanut-shaped driverless pod

Renault has unveiled its take on the car of the future: a peanut-shaped, mulit-directional driverless vehicle that is capable of docking into a train of vehicles.

Designed by Yuchen Cai, a student of Central St Martins’ MA in Industrial Design, the vehicle is the winning design in competition run between Renault and the prestigious design school, and was honed during a two-week stay at Renault’s Paris studio by Cai this summer.

Dubbed The Float, the vehicle was unveiled today at DesignJunction, a four-day design event that kicked off today in London.

“Everyone has accepted that cars will be part of the sharing economy in the future – that’s what’s going to happen,” said Will Sorrel, event director of DesignJunction, this morning.

“This takes it one step further and these pods are this peanut shape so they can join together, so the autonomous vehicles can link up and join together if they’re going in the same direction, conserving energy.”

The Float by Yuchen Cai, winner of the Renault and Central Saint Martins, UAL competition

The Float is rather unusually designed to run using magnetic levitation – known more commonly as maglev – and would be capable of moving in any direction, eliminating the need for tedious three-point turns.

Made entirely of glass, the vehicle is designed to have sliding doors. Two bucket-style seats enable up to two passengers to travel per pod, and swivel mechanism ensures easy departure from the pods.

When the vehicle is docked to another, however, the passengers aren’t just stuck grimacing at each other through glass. Instead passengers can rotate their seats using built-in controls and power up a sound system that allows them to talk to the pod next door.

Those who are feeling less sociable can change the opacity of the glass, ensuring privacy when their neighbours are not so appealing to communicate with.

The Float is also designed to be paired with a smartphone app, through which would-be passengers could hail a vehicle as required.

“Central Saint Martins’ Industrial Design students really took this on board when creating their vision of the future,” said Anthony Lo, Renault’s  vice-president of exterior design and one of the competition judges. “Yuchen’s winning design was particularly interesting thanks to its use of Maglev technology and its tessellated design. It was a pleasure to have her at the Renault design studios and see her vision come to life.”

“From a technological viewpoint, the prospect of vehicle autonomy is fascinating, but it’s also critical to hold in mind that such opportunities also present significant challenges to how people interact and their experience of future cities,” added Nick Rhodes, Central Saint Martins programme director of product ceramic & industrial design.

“Recognition of the success of the projects here lies in their ability to describe broader conceptions of what driverless vehicles might become and how we may come to live with them.”