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Problem Solving Must-Reads: Self-Driving Electric Buses

Plus: Developing implicit bias trainings for police, and a more efficient way to study biodiversity

Problem Solving Must-Reads: Self-Driving Electric Buses

Plus: Developing implicit bias trainings for police, and a more efficient way to study biodiversity

In Helsinki, Finland, self-driving electric buses mark a significant advancement for public transportation systems. A safe and efficient alternative to self-driving cars, the electric bus reduces emissions and alleviates traffic on public roads. Buses are “taught” a route by operators who control them from a control box, and are then fine-tuned with software. The buses can be controlled by a single operator in a central office. By reducing incurrent costs for companies, buses can also cover more expansive and flexible routes, catering to customer needs. The electric bus represents a long-term effort to reduce personal car ownership, thus reducing gas emissions, reducing accidents and alleviating traffic.

A two-year collaborative financial effort from several universities, government agencies, and the European Union has enabled the $1.2 million project (called Sohjoa) to create the Helsinki bus. The bus debuted in September, performing a straight, quarter-mile long route in the Hernesaari district of Helsinki. The route was chosen for its notoriously high traffic congestion, allowing the innovators to observe a variety of traffic issues during various times and analyze the bus’ ability to fulfill its mission.

Despite being a solid first step, the Helsinki bus is largely limited by safety restrictions which limit its speed, focusing primarily on “last mile service”—that is, taking riders from a stop on a more conventional bus line to a point closer to their homes, shops, offices or schools. The project aims to establish a bus route for an autonomous bus in coming years. The Helsinki bus is just one example of efforts to transform transportation, reduce the use of cars, and the traffic jams and greenhouse gases that come with them.

Read the full story here (via New York Times)

Here’s what else we’re reading:

A Non-Violent Approach to Combatting Police Violence

The Center for Policing Equity, a think tank based in Los Angeles, CA, is pursuing research on police implicit bias training as a way to combat police brutality. Implicit biasing propagates stereotypes that disproportionately disadvantage African-Americans, and often result in lethal consequences for innocent citizens. Implicit bias training is a lecture and discussion-based workshop to restructure perceptions by enabling people to understand what influences their discriminatory judgments. Though changing behavior may take more than engaging in discussion, these conversations raise awareness, taking the important first step towards enacting change.

Rethinking the Impacts of Waterfront Development

Photo: Next City

Ecologist Ryan Kelly is working with a new tool to study the effects that urbanization has on biodiversity—his Nalgene. By dipping a his water bottle into the Washington Puget Sound, he gathered genetic waste from materials left behind by all sorts of aquatic organisms. With this simple method, he was able to census hundreds of species at once, finding that urbanization does not necessarily always have the negative impact on biodiversity that we tend to assume. Coastline studies showed that more developed stretches of coastline had a greater array of species than more remote ones, though more homogenous overall. Further studies will use environmental DNA Analysis to explore why urban coastlines tend to attract similar species.

Photo header via New York Times

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