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Carpooling: one of the futures of moblity

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Autonomous cars will be with us very soon, and in addition to being safer and better for the environment, CHRIS MEGAN, CEO and co-Founder of uGoMyWay, believes there could be less congestion as we start carpooling.

There would be something gratifying about guessing the future, particularly when it is patently counterintuitive.  Isn’t carpooling all about that quaint 70’s notion that we could all reduce our petrol costs and save the planet if only we could remember a lesson taught to all school children on their first day at school?

School children wouldn’t need to share if there were two swings available and only two school children.  But who is going to design a playground with 40 swings in it, so that no child is kept waiting? Instead, they are taught, that to be fair, we must share so that every child gets a turn….

Moving this simple metaphor along…at the turn of the last century (not too long ago), road authorities across the world, realised they could not keep building roads until the headquarters of urban central – our cities – ended up with 40 lanes in each direction on highways, not yet floating in the sky but tethered to the available land mass.  So, they capped it at three.

Consequently, the road network now grinds to a halt, frequently, and it would seem that once again, we all need to be taught how to ‘share’, to make best use of the roads that we have at our disposal.

Urban mobility in Cape Town is a crisis on the brink of disaster that will compromise economic development and is now threatening personal wellbeing.  I cannot put that strongly enough.  Time is a luxury we can no longer afford.  The question is, how could this have happened and been allowed to get to this stage?

One shock to any system rarely causes a disaster and the first shock wasn’t a shock at all.  Nearly every urban planner knows that populations urbanise and that people tend to gravitate to where there is work. However, being charitable, the extent of population growth in certain cities may have come as a surprise.

In Cape Town, the second shock was more nuanced.  A number of buildings in the CBD were overdue for modernisation.  This process allowed for more parking capacity to be accommodated by building upward.  Why not rebuild your 32-storey head office with 10 storeys of parking? After all, the building will have the same footprint at ground level.  At the same time, old areas of the city such as the Harbour, the Foreshore or the Silo District were repurposed as new retail or office space and again, furnished with ample parking for all the new staff and customers. Even more nuanced, developers want to develop where rents are accelerating, which leads to a switch from out of town development to excessive densification in CBDs.

We can add one last shock to this system by the name of the Passenger Rail Authority of South Africa (PRASA).  If only our passenger train network had responded positively to the economic development our city enjoys, this story could have had a very different ending.  Instead we have a 400% increase in train cancellations.  15% of all trains never show up on the entire network and only 65% of trains arrive on time. Overcrowding is so dire, the space on the outside of the carriages is now full.  In terms of safety, the situation is even worse and wholly untenable.

Overcoming nearly two decades of mismanagement, excessive bureaucracy and institutionalised corruption, PRASA has a 20-year plan to replace its 50-year-old infrastructure and rolling stock – costing a whopping R170 billion – but the likelihood is that the situation will get worse for a good few years, before it gets any better.

Any one of these shocks might have accelerated the City of Cape Town from crisis to disaster.  The combined effects of the three will undoubtedly lead to a fourth, namely the collapse of the road network into chronic congestion and daily gridlock (nothing like you are currently experiencing, much, much worse, no matter how many video-camera-wearing traffic officers there are enforcing basic road manners, although this is something…).

Despite this real and dire situation, the solution to traffic congestion is actually very simple.

Put more people into less cars!

Once again, we will have to be taught how to share, because there aren’t too many other plans available.  The faster we admit this, the sooner we might begin to avert the disaster.

Meanwhile, autonomous (driverless) vehicles are already with us…well they are currently in Singapore, but will be making an appearance here sooner than we think.  The advances in driverless technology are unstoppable and will likely replace existing private vehicles in all cities across the world in the next 15 – 20 years.  These cars (or pods) will have electric motors, rather than combustion engines, reducing their complexity from more than 200 parts to less than 15.  They will be very cheap to manufacture and significantly cheaper to maintain.  They will also run on battery technology charged by wind, solar or other renewable sources, far cheaper than fossil fuels and much better for the environment.

Ironically, these pods do not need to be parked in over densified areas, so cities could repurpose all that parking space as housing, closer to places of work, reducing the burden on over congested transportation still further, and contributing to solving the housing crisis.

This type of vehicle could operate for less than R1/km and carry four or five passengers from their doorstep, to their place of work, reliably and safely, every day for less than the price of a bus ticket.

This technology will not only challenge the concept of private car ownership, but will revolutionise all other forms of public transport and urban planning. Transport oriented development if ever there was.

Interesting therefore, that the quaint 70’s notion of carpooling and sharing scarce resources, will not only provide a solution to congestion for the next five to ten years, but will also emerge as the transport option of choice in the future of urban mobility.

Government has asked for radical economic transformation, but the point is, we can have as many ideas and set-up as many businesses as we like, if the people who need to run it and work it, cannot get there, we will not move forward.  So, what is impeding Government (local and national) from rubber stamping a framework around carpooling to get South Africa moving?

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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SAFTA awards get first streaming video nominees

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The 2019 nominations for The South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs) were announced late last week, and for the first time in the 13-year history of the awards, a TV series produced for a video-on-demand service was in contention. The result was a surprise boost to streaming service Showmax.

The comedy series Tali’s Wedding Diary, which premiered in December 2017, represented a major step for the then two-year old streaming service. It was the debut Showmax Original, the first time Showmax ventured into producing its own content. The gamble paid off, with the show becoming the most watched of any series on its first day on Showmax, and now Tali’s Wedding Diary has been further recognised with seven SAFTA nominations, making it this year’s most nominated comedy.

“When we first floated the idea of Tali’s Wedding Diary, we joked about winning awards,” says Candice Fangueiro, Showmax’s head of content. “At that point, just getting our first Showmax Original off the ground was already a major challenge and it was more than we could hope for to actually hit it out of the park. I was stunned when I heard the news about the nominations – it’s amazing to be considered in the same company as these other shows and thanks to this we’re already seeing a fresh spike in Tali views.”

Tali’s Wedding Diary was also a first for co-creator and star Julia Anastasopoulos, who until then was best known as YouTube star SuzelleDIY. “I am so thrilled about the SAFTA nominations for Tali’s Wedding Diary,” says Julia, who is up for Best Actress – TV Comedy and Best Achievement in Scriptwriting – TV Comedy, along with her husband Ari Kruger and Daniel Zimbler. 

“It was such a big and daunting step to create a full TV comedy series and intro a brand-new character. I really didn’t know how it would be received and am so happy to have received such positive feedback for the show and the Tali Babes character, along with the nominations. It feels so good to be recognised for something we poured our hearts into. None of it would have been possible, of course, without the incredible hard work and vision of my husband Ari and the incredible team, cast and crew that were part of the show. And a huge thank you to Showmax of course for making it all possible. Congratulations and best of luck to the entire team and to all the other nominees.”

Tali’s Wedding Diary is a mockumentary that follows Tali, a self-obsessed Joburg princess who’s moved to Cape Town and is planning her wedding to property-agent fiancé Darren (Anton Taylor). The series was inspired by Julia’s own wedding to Ari, her SuzelleDIY and Tali’s Wedding Diary co-creator, who is also up for Best Achievement In Directing – TV Comedy.  

In addition to Julia and Ari’s nominations, Tali’s Wedding Diary is up for Best TV Comedy, Art Direction (Keren Setton),  Cinematography (James Adey), and Editing (Richard Starkey). Winners will be announced on 2 March 2019 at Sun City Superbowl.

Following the success of Tali’s Wedding Diary, the second Showmax Original, The Girl From St Agnes, was released earlier this month. A third Showmax Original, Trippin With Skhumba, is slated for release at the end of February.

“With three Showmax Originals now under our belt and more on the way, we’d like to think this is the start of many more SAFTA nominations for shows from a streaming service,” concludes Candice.

South African content currently on Showmax has 110 nominations and includes the most nominated movie (Five Fingers With Marseilles), telenovela (The River), drama (Lockdown) and soap (Isibaya), with more SAFTA nominees scheduled for the coming months.

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