Tom Vanderbilt on how the iPhone and its ilk will change transportation
Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic: Why we drive the way we do just published iTransport, inventorying the most promising transportation apps for driving, parking, biking, transit and walking in Slate.
“Transportation is civilization,” Rudyard Kipling once wrote. Today we’re more inclined to express this equation with words like mobility and accessibility, but the spirit’s the same: The flow of people and goods (“traffic and all that it implies,” per Kipling) makes the world hum. But transit can feel uncivilized: We sit in congestion (wishing for the path less taken); we miss trains; we hunt for good places to park a car or a bike; we get lost.
Enter the iPhone. One of the device’s greatest areas of promise is as a transportation tool. Rival smartphones, of course, are equipped with GPS, Internet access, etc., but none corral quite so many of the features that delight transpo geeks (an accelerometer, a compass, etc.) into one device. And rival phones can only envy the iPhone’s flourishing app market, which includes some 65,000 options, many at least peripherally related to transportation (that is, if you include parallel parking games and the like).