Mitchell Joachim designs smart cars for cities of the future

If a smart car runs over a pothole, it can tell nearby vehicles to avoid it. It can also send a message to a municipal grid, saying to come and repair the pothole.

Traffic congestion is one of the major challenges in cities today. But the problem goes beyond the car.

Mitchell Joachim: It’s really not the car that’s the problem. It’s everything from the wheel to the notion of mobility and travel in places, especially cities.

That’s architect and urban planner Mitchell Joachim. Working with the Smart Cities group at the MIT Media Lab, Joachim was challenged to design a car that’s more environmentally friendly. He responded by helping to literally reinvent the wheel.

Mitchell Joachim: So what we did was put the whole car in the wheel, drive train, motoring suspension, breaking and more importantly, intelligence, inside the wheel package. And what you would do is add one or two or three of these wheels together and you’d have a vehicle.

These “smart” wheels could radically transform driving in the city.

Mitchell Joachim: These wheels, since they can talk to one another within the vehicle, they can also branch out and talk to vehicles nearby or constantly reconnect on a municipal grid. So vehicles would be networked and talking to one another and move in flocks or herds.

Joachim said these “herds” of future cars could make driving more efficient and consume less energy. Plus, the wheels could even help keep streets in good repair.

Mitchell Joachim: For instance, if it runs over a pothole, so it would tell the vehicles next to it there’s a pothole so they would avoid it. And it would also send it to a municipal grid that would say to come and repair the pothole.

Our thanks to Mitchell Joachim.
Mitchell Joachim is on the faculty at Columbia University and Parsons School of Design. He has been awarded the Moshe Safdie Research Fellowship, and the Martin Family Society Fellow for Sustainability at MIT. He won the History Channel and Infiniti Design Excellence Award for the City of the Future, and Time Magazine Best Invention of the Year 2007, Compacted Car w/ MIT Smart Cities. Wired magazine placed him on their “2008 Smart List: 15 People the Next President Should Listen To.” Rolling Stone magazine honored Mitchell as one of “The 100 People Who Are Changing America.”

Jorge Salazar