Mobility on Demand: Winner of the The Buckminster Fuller Challenge


Mobility Network from winning team

Mobility Network from winning team

A team from MIT just won the 2009 Buckminster Fuller Challenge, a competition that awards a $100,000 prize to support the development and implementation of a strategy that has significant potential to solve humanity’s most pressing problems.

The team devised a Mobility-on-demand system that works a lot like bike sharing programs that we have covered extensively, but has a greater variety of vehicles. The system has racks of super lightweight and compact electric bikes, scooters, and cars at closely spaced, convenient locations around an urban service area. The vehicles automatically recharge while they are in these racks.

To use, people walk to the nearest rack, swipe a credit card, pick up a vehicle, drive it to a rack convenient to their destination, and drop it off. 

One of the more innovative aspects of this system is that different locations have varying pickup and drop off values. In other words, a busy hub on the network that has many users will be cheaper to rent or drop off a vehicle from. A more peripheral location will be expensive to rent from but more affordable to drop the vehicle off. This ensures that the vehicles are properly distributed in the network.

The team is hoping to use their prize to first implement a pilot of the system on MIT and Harvard’s campus, which will take an anticipated 2 years. Within 3 years, the team hopes to distribute the system in a number of cities worldwide! You can find out more about this great achievement here: 2009 Winner | The Buckminster Fuller Challenge.

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One Response to “Mobility on Demand: Winner of the The Buckminster Fuller Challenge”

  1. Vanessa said:

    May 05, 09 at 2:04 pm

    This idea is awesome because it suggests an appropriate model for vehicle ownership in cities of the future. (Every household will not be able to own a private car for much longer!)

    A logistical conundrum:
    Most bike-share programs place a hold on non-members’ credit cards in case they trash a borrowed bike. I wonder how a system could ensure similar security for motorized vehicles. My credit card at least doesn’t have a high enough limit to cover a crashed or stolen car! Use of the cars would probably need to be restricted to share-owning members, as in the Co-operative Auto Network.