Every Friday, Circulate rounds up a collection of interesting circular economy related stories and articles. In this edition, we’re recommending articles on whether the city of the future exists today, changing mobility and whether 3D printing could keep your Delorean in action.

This week the internet stopped to celebrate 21st October 2015 AKA Back to the Future Day, with widespread disappointment that hoverboards, flying cars, and dehydrated pizzas haven’t yet become commonplace. So if Marty McFly’s version of 2015 wasn’t completely accurate, what can this week’s best articles tell us about the world today, and where it’s heading?

The city of the future?
The city of the future?

Writing on the ‘city of the future’ usually gives designers and futurists a license to go wild, mocking up designs for a future utopia. But Mike Elgan believes that the city of tomorrow exists today, in San Francisco. While it may seem a bold claim, there are reasons to support his central rationale. Mike says that most future visions “assume that urban disorganization is to be solved by central planning. But in reality, the future is getting fragmented, not collectivized”. The argument continues that, “if the sharing economy and on-demand services will organize the city of tomorrow, then the city of tomorrow already exists. It’s called San Francisco.” And, while it may be proved correct, it’s no surprise to learn that the author is from California – it would be interesting to hear if predictions from China, India or Latin America would support the claim.

It’s never all rosy in the world of the sharing economy (especially in San Francisco). This week AirBnB gave themselves a pat on the back for paying $12 million in hotel tax, running a series of adverts that didn’t go down well with city residents. Pushing commentary on the ads themselves to one side, Slate suggested that the company had lost some of its friendly image, the thing that set AirBnB apart from the traditional hotel competition. That may be the case, but what hasn’t been lost is the ability for networks like AirBnB to offer a specialised service and  local knowledge through trusted individuals, and although there are an increasing number of business listings, many hosts are making use of idle capacity by renting on the platform.

What will transport look like in the future? If you live in Oslo, it could be very different. The newly-elected city council have said that private cars will be banned from the city centre by 2019. Bikes, buses, trams are all welcome but that shiny new Tesla? No thanks! The decision has been made based not only on the impacts of air pollution, but also to make Oslo more pedestrian and bike-friendly. It’s a sign that improving urban transport might not be a case of just changing the types of cars we use, but looking at the whole mobility system to identify better solutions.

Another approach would be to build a massive tunnel that fires pods full of people across the country at 760 mph, or at least that’s the dream of attendees at the GloSho15 cleantech conference that took place this week. The Hyperloop transport system proposed by Elon Musk in 2013 is due to be piloted on an in-development test track in California, with transport industry leaders seeing this technology as part of a “profound shift in personal mobility”. On-demand services and intelligent use of assets, facilitated by the internet and mobile technology, also feature heavily in this shift, with Lyft making case for mobilising latent productivity in automobiles.

Image: Futurepedia
Image: Futurepedia

We know what you’re thinking – does all this disruption mean that you’ll be left unable to find a spare part for your favourite classic car? Fear not, as the members of the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs are spending some of their annual conference discussing the potential of advanced manufacturing techniques. With discontinued spares increasingly hard to come by, and low-volume remanufacturing proving costly, enthusiasts are investigating whether 3D printing could be a solution. With today’s scanning and additive manufacturing technologies, your pride and joy could be kept on the road for longer. Crowdfunding could open new doors, with spokesperson Colin Poland hoping that ‘if every car club chucked a few hundred pounds into a 3D printing scheme, we would be able to afford the technology and the staff to print off any part we wanted’.

Want more? Check out the What We’re Reading section, updated daily with the best links from the Circulate Team.

Lead image © Universal


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