The Shweeb

As the fear of global warming increases in the public, there are some who are trying to be productive and find a solution to global warming, or at least, slow the process.  A group of these individuals, whose company is called Shweeb, has found a way to contribute to the fight against global warming.  Their idea?  Pedal powered pods.  Shweeb submitted their idea to a competition held by Google, in which these pods are in some sort of track and you race the opposite pod by pedaling as fast as your legs can pedal.  Google found some merit in this idea, since they awarded the company one million dollars to get the project started.
Now, I applaud all and every intention to stop global warming and although I am not a fan of these pedal pods, I can see how this idea can help the environment.  If the project is taken off the ground, and if it is a hit with the public, the dependency on cars would drastically decrease.  With the cars’ disappearance, pollution would decrease as well as the dependency on oil not to mention relieving the Earth of greenhouse gas.  Since the pedal pods require you to pedal to your destination as if you are bicycling, it promotes cardio and would reduce obesity, which is a big problem in the U.S.
That being said, I really do not see it being a hit in society.  The whole “pedaling to your destination” seems a little too much for our society.  What if you are commuting a long distance?   Nowadays, more and more people are working in places in which they commute half an hour in a car, at least.  I do not see those individuals running to make a line at the pedal pod center.  How about the elderly? Not so much.  Yet, I still believe this idea can really work for society and benefit the environment vastly.  Maybe if the “pedal to your destination” were fixed, the people commuting to their work would be more incline to use the pedal pods.  I like to believe that this project was what inspired the individuals who thought of the pod cars system.  Although, the project illustrate its true motives a revision or improvement to the initial idea would have to be made in order for the publics approval.  Check out the video below for more details:

Driving While Intexticated

I know this blog was intended for Transportation Engineering topics however, I felt like driving while texting is also relevant in the transportation world.  A few days ago, yesterday to be exact, my instructor for Transportation was talking to the class about a case, in California, on using the GPS features on your phone.  A court ruled that individuals who were caught with a cell phone in their hands while driving would be cited under no circumstances. A big problem which we are facing nowadays is the dangers of texting while driving.  It may seem harmless at first, but if the statistics are taken into consideration, texting and driving is not only dangerous, but at times, deadly.  With 77% of young adults feeling confident texting while driving and another 48% claiming to have seen their parents texting and driving, one can easily see how misinformed society is, in general, with the dangers of texting while driving.
Now, I will not deny that I have not been guilty of texting while driving however I do try to minimize my occurrences.  I noticed that whenever I do text and drive I am usually at the very edge of my lane almost crossing onto the other lane.  I also feared getting a citation since they’re up in the three digits.  Aside from that, it is impressionable to know that in 2011, 1.3 million crashes were due to texting and driving.  That is a high number for something that people feel “confident” doing.  It may seem like only half a second is used to check on a text but in reality, it is around 5 seconds.  Enough time to get in an accident.  Driving is dangerous by itself; there is no need to add distractions.
Now what can be done to reduce this number.  The state of California is doing all it cans to discourage the public from using a phone while driving.  Citations are very pricey and there are cracking hard on the culprits and yet there are many who still do it.  There is no way you can force someone to do something they are not willing to do but there are ways they might be convinced.  Maybe the cell phone providers can enclose Bluetooth’s in the cell phones along with the charger or the vehicle manufacturers can include Bluetooth in all the cars, not just the luxurious ones.  This might make the public more inclined to use a hand-free device but ultimately, it is up to each and every individual to act responsibly and stop taking huge risks; they are not worth it.  After all, WE ARE ALL SHARING THE SAME ROAD!

Don’t Go Through Life Cutting Corners

There is a phrase which my mother always says to me, don’t go through life cutting corners.   Although I feel that this principle can be applied to every aspect in life, I feel that it fits perfectly the Tacoma Narrow Bridge. The plans to start construction on the Tacoma Narrow Bridge started as early as the late 1880s.  There were plans to build a bridge between Tacoma and Kitsap Peninsula in Washington State.  The plans were pushed back for many years due to the lack of funding.  It was not until the late 1930s that an engineer, Clark Eldridge and Leon Moisseiff went head to head, trying to get the contract.  Clark Eldridge proposed a plan in which he would build the Tacoma Bridge using 25 feet deep plate girders and use a budget of eleven million dollars.  Leon Moisseiff was the designer and consulting engineer in the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California and he had plans to build the bridge for a lot less than the eleven million that Clark Eldridge foresaw spending.  To do this, Moisseiff proposed to use shallow support, which would give the bridge a more elegant look, would only require approximately six million dollars to construct and would not require years to construct since he would only use eight feet deep plate girders to support the bridge.
Needless to say, Leon Moisseiff won the contract and started building the Tacoma Narrow Bridge on September 27, 1938.  It took 19 months to build and a little over the six million.  The Tacoma Narrow Bridge opened to the public on July 1, 1940.  From the start, the bridge was nicknamed the Galloping Gertie because it was easily moved by the winds.  The bridge ran 5,939 feet in length and although it was so long, it had only two lanes. The high winds would sway the bridge since the eight feet deep plate girders were not strong enough to resist the winds.  On November 7, 1940 there were high winds in the state of Washington.   At around 11 in the morning, The Tacoma Narrow Bridge collapsed.  Thankfully there were no fatalities as a result.
So what can engineers and aspiring engineers take from this unfortunate occurrence? NOT TO CUT CORNERS.  Had the engineers and designers done the project right, using the right supplies and relying on 25 feet deep plate girders as Clark Eldridge proposed, the bridge would not have fallen.  Yes, it is important to be cost efficient, but not at the risk of civilians’ lives.  It was fortunate that no lives were lost when the Tacoma Narrow Bridge collapsed, but that is not to say fatalities will not arise in another collapse.  It is crucial to do the job right the first time.