All posts by André Ourednik

The automobile world and the future of space – a cartographic perspective

Strip map showing the road from London to Portsmouth, “actually surveyd and delineated by John Ogilby Esq[ire]: His Ma.ties Cosmographer.” (1675)

What follows is the text of a presentation at the ICHC 2015 in Antwerp, held on July 15th.

For the full text, see: The automobile world and the future of space – a cartographic perspective » Maps and Spaces.

That there exists a dialectical relationship between spatial representations and spatial practices is a familiar idea, which received extensive theoretical development by thinkers as diverse as Henri Lefebvre, Gunar Olsson or Franco Farinelli. My aim is to explore this relationship by focusing on the mutually reinforced development of road maps and of motorized individual transport in the 20th century. Doing so, I also wish to identify tendencies in contemporary mapping practices, which possibly fore- bode the emergence of a post-car world. In North America, Europe and its colonies, automobile maps for the individual driver evolve in the early 20th century, mostly from earlier bicycle maps. The first Soviet maps of the kind emerge after WW2. In the “West”, production and distribution is promoted by private companies, drivers associations and public actors with the aim of stimulating car-related consumption, local tourism, or the sense of national or continental identity. In the first stages of development maps help to make the car usable by identifying the most drivable road segments. Beginning in 1917 Rand McNally (USA) articulates its Auto Trails maps to a system of numbered highways, and is directly involved in the erection of corresponding roadside signs. This process, soon imitated in other countries, contributes to a general transformation of the lived space, in which spatial orientation comes to depend less on architectural and topographic landmarks and more on formalized signs, whose interpreta- bility closely depends on maps. The lived space evolves from landscape into a linear sequence of signs, well incarnated by objects such as the first on-board navigators Iter Avto (Italy, 1930) or Plus Fours Routefinder (UK, 1927). The process also involves a radical generalization of all mapped elements not directly accessible by car, while emphasizing car-related amenities (e.g. Guide Michelin, France, beginning 1900). In parallel – among the professionals of space – the development of zoning schemes in land-use planning intensifies, and at times enforces, the use of the car between large mono-functional areas. From the mid-1980s road maps are increasingly digitized and incorporated as onboard navigation systems, further participating in the ‘automobilization’ of space. Extensive car use allows the commercial development of these systems that, however, also push the frontier of the mappable itineraries while mutating into mobile phone applications. The StreetPilot app for Android and iPhone, for instance, considers public transportation options, such as trains, trams or busses when calculating pedestrian routes. Thus, while cartography has played an important role in making the car usable, it might well play a central role, today, in the evolution of a car-dominated space to a space of multi-modal mobility.

Carlos Ghosn est désabusé face à la voiture électrique


“En Suisse, les voitures purement électriques sont peu nombreuses. En comptant les véhicules hybrides, la part de marché représente 3,6%, alors que les voitures 4×4 se taillent la part du lion avec 42,4%. Plusieurs constructeurs mettent sur le marché des voitures munies de piles à combustible qui fonctionnent à l’hydrogène. Toyota présente ainsi sa berline Mirai en première européenne au Salon de l’auto de Genève.Le patron de Renault-Nissan n’est pas pressé de suivre le mouvement. «Nous disposons déjà de prototypes de la deuxième génération, mais nous ne voyons aucune urgence à nous lancer sur ce marché», explique-t-il. Les expériences faites avec la voiture entièrement électrique ont rendu Carlos Ghosn prudent. «Les constructeurs qui se lancent maintenant auront le même problème que nous, à savoir l’absence d’infrastructure de recharge. Il sera même plus aigu car une station délivrant de l’hydrogène coûte plusieurs centaines de milliers de dollars.” Willy Boder – Le Temps

Lire davantage: Carlos Ghosn est désabusé face à la voiture électrique –

The future of mobility as seen from the past

James B. Settles, 1946, Amazing Stories Magazine. Trade your trouble for a bubble

James B. Settles, 1946, “Pleasure ball”, Amazing Stories Magazine.

Moving walkways with seats, rolling bubbles, magnetic ring railways… Several sites (e.g. the science fiction site “Dark Rosted Blend”) present a series of imaged futures of mobility, as seen from the point of view of the past century.

“Now that atomic energy is coming, we have asked artist James B. Settles to picture for us one of the developments in amusement to which it might be put. He surprised us with this huge rolling cross-country pleasure ball.
With atomic energy, it has been postulated that man will have many leisure hours that he never had before. He will have most of the day to pursue as he pleases, either for pleasure, or in pursuit of a hobby, or in art, or in just plain being lazy.
… and decide to go sightseeing across the country in this giant rolling ball of transparent plastic, balanced by interior gyro stabilizers controlling a suspended core which ever remains erect as it travels around its giant “track-ring.”
This ring is magnetic, and powered by the atom, revolves along the roadway. The same power that makes the ball move forward (or backward) acts for stopping the ball. There are no huge motors, no complicated apparatus, just the simplest of gadgets, and a complex and very interesting interior which is the last word in pleasure palaces. Games, terraces, ramps, restful lounging places, dance floors, swimming pools and just plain sightseeing would make this huge ball a pleasant place to while away a day.” – Amazing Stories, 1946.

See more here:

Vivre à la campagne sans voiture | La Ville Nouvelle

Considering a PostCarWorld for the hypo-urban dwellers:

La campagne sans voiture, ça n’existe pas ? 
Quelle belle contradiction : l’écolo est censé habiter à la campagne, et la vie à la campagne «est impossible sans voiture». Or quoi qu’on dise «la bagnole, ça  pue, ça tue et ça pollue» et «les carapaces, ça prend de la place» et même à la campagne. Moralité le soi-disant modèle écologique serait dramatique s’il était généralisé.

Pour développer des alternatives à la voiture en milieu rural, il faut se confronter à des obstacles structurels, systémiques et psychologiques….

Avant d’entreprendre quelconque changement, mieux vaut vérifier notre motivation. Voulons-nous vraiment vivre à la campagne? Voulons-nous vraiment vivre sans voiture? Est-ce que nous faisons ce choix pour satisfaire nos besoins intérieurs, ou bien nous cherchons à satisfaire un besoin induit par l’extérieur?…”

Vivre à la campagne sans voiture | La Ville Nouvelle.

Voir aussi:

Public transport and public health: bacteria in the New York Subway

“A city is like an organism,” said IBM Corp. computational biologist Robert Prill, who is among those at the company investigating ways to better collect and analyze these immense new public-health genome databases. “It has a circulating system consisting of the movement of people.”

A question that also needs to be taken  into account in PostCarWorld.

Big Data and Bacteria: Mapping the New York Subway’s DNA – WSJ.

Fully Driverless Cars Will Be Ready in 2060, Report Finds

Excitement about autonomous vehicles has been high in the engineering and planning fields, and much of the media coverage about them has been favorable. The driverless car, it’s been predicted, will result in the following benefits to mobility:

  • a reduction in traffic congestion (permitting roads to be redesigned);
  • a decrease in car ownership (and a concomitant reduction in pollution);
  • a diminished need for parking (permitting this land to be repurposed); and
  • an 80 to 90 percent reduction in automobile collisions (because humans are error-prone and computers are not).

The VTPI report is a sober, and perhaps more realistic, look at the impacts of driverless cars on transportation planning. The main conclusion of the report, called “Autonomous Vehicle Implementation Predictions: Implications for Transport Planning,” is that predictions that self-driving cars will soon be all over the roads are optimistic. – See more at:

“Vehicle innovations tend to be implemented more slowly than for other technological change due to their high costs, strict safety requirements, and slow fleet turnover.” Acknowledging this, VTPI’s report projects that a true, level 4, driverless car will not reach market saturation, and be affordable to middle income families, until around the year 2060 or later”

Fully Driverless Cars Will Be Ready in 2060, Report Finds — Mobility Lab.

Full report: