Driverless Bus Prototype Coming to Ann Arbor

This is cool, a prototype autonomous bus is coming to Ann Arbor in the fall.

The service will use two fully automated, 15-passenger, all-electric shuttles manufactured by French firm NAVYA to transport students, faculty and staff on a nonstop two-mile route between the Lurie Engineering Center and the university’s North Campus Research Complex on Plymouth Road.

Mcity will study how passengers react to the vehicle as a way to gauge consumer acceptance of the technology. Exterior cameras will capture the reaction and behavior of other road users, especially bicyclists and pedestrians. Mcity will also track ridership and usage patterns, and survey users about their experience.The data gathered will help researchers understand how to design safer vehicles and how to operate them more efficiently.

The shuttle service will run on U-M roads during business hours to start. There will be no cost to riders, and the two shuttles will cover the route roughly every 10 minutes. Hours of operation and the service area could be increased later if the technology proves effective and consumer acceptance supports expansion.

The article says it’s a 2 mile route but this is my best guess for the route:

 

Coworking at Workantile

One of the challenges of distributed work is isolation. Our third places are already disappearing, losing the office as a second place can be tough. So, about once a week, I drive over half an hour to Workantile, a coworking space in Ann Arbor.

It started with the Ann Arbor Software Co-Workers. I attended a few of those meetups at a coffee shop and was reminded that there is something energizing about being around people. At the same time, I wanted somewhere that I could hop on a video call. I wanted somewhere I didn’t have to make sure that someone watched my bag when I went to the bathroom. Somewhere I didn’t have to OD on caffeine to make sure I’m paying my rent. So I wound up at Workantile.

[As an aside, my employer has a coworking stipend that covers traditional coworking spaces as well as coffee rent at coffee shops. Companies that want to support distributed workers, take note.]

Workantile is part of a vanishing breed. There are plenty of coworking spaces that are “you pay money, get desk, end of story.” There are also plenty of incubators that want to host your startup. What Workantile focuses on are the independent contractors and the remote workers that want a second place. Here’s how they put it:

At Workantile our goal is to support the work and social needs of independent workers typically already established in their job or business, whether they’re self-employed or remote employees. Workantile creates a diverse workplace environment without the office politics. Our social network isn’t for smarmy business-oriented “networking,” but for real social interaction and camaraderie.

Quartz has a great write-up on how coworking has moved from the Workantile model to the other models. Companies like WeWork have been focused on flexible office space, ignoring any sort of community aspect. That probably makes financial sense, but I’m not really interested in “Office Hotelling.” It’s kind of disheartening that as more workers are becoming remote and distributed, social coworking is on its way out.

There’s a new coworking space “Pastel” opening much closer to me – a 5 minute commute instead of a 35 minute commute. Their vision is “a place for independent business women to find support, balance and connection.” That’s not quite me, but I’m glad to see other coworking spaces opening to focus on something other than real estate. I will be keeping an eye on them but for now it sounds like Workantile is a better fit.

Don’t get me wrong: I still loathe commutes but once a week is the right balance for me right now.

[Photo credit Chris Salzman]

Looking to upgrade ArborBlogs

ArborBlogs is starting to get a little long in the tooth, and I’m not too happy with the Drupal aggregator codebase. The ability for people to post to the site was under-utilized, to say the least, so I’m looking for a pure-aggregator to replace it.

Some of the things I’m looking for are:

Support for the 9 versions of RSS and Atom. Should be obvious in this day and age, but I had to hack Atom support into Drupal’s aggregator (with a little help from Magpie).

Ability for non-admins to add feeds. I don’t want my disinterest in my inbox to prevent people from getting added. Bonus points if people can put in their blog’s URL or a username for hosted services and have it auto-detect the feed.

Extendibility. While I’d like features like a blog directory, tagging or the picture aggregator to be built in, as long as the package supports some easy way to add new modules I’ll be happy to put in a few hours adding the stuff I want. Prefer Ruby or a scripting language that starts with “P”. Ben Trott may have made Perl the perfect choice with WWW::Blog::Metadata, but Technorati’s web services gather a lot of the same info.

So far I know about Planet Planet, Chumpologica and Planet PHP, all of which don’t seem to have a web front end for adding feeds. Rails Planet looks promising, but the code isn’t available yet.

Any suggestions, Lazyweb?

[Updated 2005-10-14] Looks like someone already asked MetaFilter, and Josh even pointed to ArborBlogs as an example. Not a lot of leads there, either.