A considered critique of an attempt to predict the future of the emergency vehicle

Train of the future or something. Image: Paramount.

Toot toot! It’s prognosticating press release-a-clock everyone!

Internet car-based website CarKeys.co.uk has for some reason decided to imagine what emergency vehicles FROM THE FUTURE would look like and has sent pictures of them to CityMetric, presumably in the hope of having their brand mentioned on the internet. Here’s our review.

Fire Engine OF THE FUTURE

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Well, it is spraying a jet of water – a turbojet, no less – so that’s a start. Can’t quibble with an infrared camera or “tyres that cannot go flat”. Not entirely convinced that the best thing to do in an emergency is to turn the windscreen into an “augmented reality display” full of graphs. 

But then there’s the LED display. An LED display? You know who else had an LED display on the side of their emergency vehicle? The Ghostbusters. In 1989. You can buy them in Maplins.

Ambulance OF THE FUTURE

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Let’s not even start with the bold claim that an ambulance with a door at the back represents an astonishing insight into the world of tomorrow.

Fine, an ambulance with supersonic jet engines that’s also amphibious, sounds good. Should have whacked those engines on the fire engine while you were at it, instead of an LED display. And given it’s made up why limit it to Mach 1.3? Why not say it’s Mach One Million Trillion?

The best feature by far though is the SKIN GUN, which sprays stem cells out of the front of the ambulance to fix burn victims. Job done! Why not just install “a magic laser that make you better”? Then you wouldn’t even need the door at the back.

Police Car OF THE FUTURE

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Even they have to admit that this isn’t actually a car, so why… oh, never mind.

The Centreless Wheel, Electronic Shock Absorbers and Brushless DC Motor all do so sound like exciting innovations in motorbike technology, but not that particular to police work. Did someone get bored and just want to draw a space motorbike?

And while the augmented reality display (yes, another one) that “analizes” (sic) subject movement patterns sounds more promising, maybe it’s not the greatest PR move to name (and design) the special police computer after the computer in 2001 that murdered everyone?

Maybe we’re being unfair. Maybe designing emergency vehicles of the future is more difficult than it looks. So let’s give it a go:

CityMetric’s Lifeboat OF THE FUTURE

 

Not gonna lie, this one is not worth expanding.

Special future features to help in future emergencies: 

  • Has legs for if it needs to walk out of the sea;
  • Is also a helicopter;
  • Laser guns to shoot naughty waves;
  • CD changer for 50 different CDs;
  • Special foghorn that plays EDM remix of the Blue Peter theme and summons Poseidon, god of the sea;
  • TWO LED Displays.

Smashed it.

Ed Jefferson works for the internet and tweets as @edjeff.

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To make electric vehicles happen, the government must devolve energy policy to councils

The future. Image: Getty.

Last week, the Guardian revealed that at least a quarter of councils have halted the roll-out of electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure with no plans to resume its installation. This is a fully charged battery-worth of miles short of ideal, given the ambitious decarbonisation targets to which the UK is rightly working.

It’s even more startling given the current focus on inclusive growth, for the switch to EVs is an economic advancement, on an individual and societal level. Decarbonisation will free up resources and push growth, but the way in which we go about it will have impacts for generations after the task is complete.

If there is one lesson that has been not so much taught to us as screamed at us by recent history, it is that the market does not deliver inclusivity by itself. Left to its own devices, the market tends to leave people behind. And people left behind make all kinds of rational decisions, in polling stations and elsewhere that can seem wholly irrational to those charged with keeping pace – as illuminted in Jeremy Harding’s despatch from the ‘periphery’ which has incubated France’s ‘gilet jaunes’ in the London Review of Books.

But what in the name of Nikola Tesla has any of this to do with charging stations? The Localis argument is simple: local government must work strategically with energy network providers to ensure that EV charging stations are rolled out equally across areas, to ensure deprived areas do not face further disadvantage in the switch to EVs. To do so, Ofgem must first devolve certain regulations around energy supply and management to our combined authorities and city regions.


Although it might make sense now to invest in wealthier areas where EVs are already present, if there isn’t infrastructure in place ahead of demand elsewhere, then we risk a ‘tale of two cities’, where decarbonisation is two-speed and its benefits are two-tier.

The Department for Transport (DfT) announced on Monday that urban mobility will be an issue for overarching and intelligent strategy moving forward. The issue of fairness must be central to any such strategy, lest it just become a case of more nice things in nice places and a further widening of the social gap in our cities.

This is where the local state comes in. To achieve clean transport across a city, more is needed than just the installation of charging points.  Collaboration must be coordinated between many of a place’s moving parts.

The DfT announcement makes much of open data, which is undoubtedly crucial to realising the goal of a smart city. This awareness of digital infrastructure must also be matched by upgrades to physical infrastructure, if we are going to realise the full network effects of an integrated city, and as we argue in detail in our recent report, it is here that inclusivity can be stitched firmly into the fabric.

Councils know the ins and outs of deprivation within their boundaries and are uniquely placed to bring together stakeholders from across sectors to devise and implement inclusive transport strategy. In the switch to EVs and in the wider Future of Mobility, they must stay a major player in the game.

As transport minister and biographer of Edmund Burke, Jesse Norman has been keen to stress the founding Conservative philosopher’s belief in the duty of those living in the present to respect the traditions of the past and keep this legacy alive for their own successors.

If this is to be a Burkean moment in making the leap to the transformative transport systems of the future, Mr Norman should give due attention to local government’s role as “little platoons” in this process: as committed agents of change whose civic responsibility and knowledge of place can make this mobility revolution happen.

Joe Fyans is head of research at the think tank Localis.