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Transportation design – leaps in the mobility industry

Differentiated as Public and Private, Transportation as a word has a broader meaning than just being understood as an activity of going from one place to another. What started as wheels and carts have now become bullet trains and hyper-sonic planes. The leaps in the mobility industry is the joint product of transportation technology and design.

Public transportation

Public transport has design derivatives generated on the basis of a key aspect i.e. functionality. For instance buses, trains, trams, monorails, etc. are designed to achieve maximum output and utility. However, this does not mean that the design aspects of such vehicles are limited. In fact, they are designed to perform for a longer haul – consistently and flawlessly. A complete ecosystem has to be designed for such vehicles in conjunction with and in relation to urban planning/designing.

Private transportation

Private transport vehicles include bicycles, scooters, motorcycles, cars, private jets, yachts, etc. They have a sense of belonging attached to them and an individual can resonate with the tangible value of his/her ownership of such vehicles. This ownership brings along the aspects of functionality as well as making the look an important factor in choice. Premium value, luxury and the vehicle as an extended statement for the user’s liking and personality also take center stage. Vehicle design primarily starts from the task it needs to perform and fulfill. Basically it has to do with functionality and thus it has a basic architecture over which the complete design of a vehicle revolves. Let’s understand this with an example.

A car, somehow similar to the structure of a building whose chassis is a framework over which the engine, the power train and all other mechanical systems are mounted. What we see visually i.e. the looks of the car are the body panels attached over this chassis. The overall dimension of the car and its stance is derived from something called a package drawing. This Package drawing is based on the segment of the car i.e. hatchbacks, sedans, SUV, crossover, performance cars, etc.

Personal project: Manas Machhar
Personal project: Manas Machhar

After freezing the package, the next step is the visual aesthetics. As in all design processes, the ideas starts from a sketch. Refining these sketches on the basis of balance, dynamism and harmony is how a new design is developed.

A designer always takes some inspiration for his/her designs from different observations and what he/she perceives from them. All designs follow a design language, this language takes birth by getting inspired from the history of the company the vehicle belongs to, the current styling language that company follows or from future concepts that company has already designed.

Personal project: Manas Machhar
Personal project: Manas Machhar
Personal project: Manas Machhar
Personal project: Manas Machhar

Sometimes the inspiration also comes from different forms of art and in some cases it may come from nature as well. These are then developed in CAD to generate tooling for mass manufacturing.

Personal project: Manas Machhar
Personal project: Manas Machhar

Transportation systems

While for public transport the design procedure for the vehicles remains the same, the bigger challenge is integrating them in the existing system. These vehicles need to harmonize with all the other systems and planning already in place, to co-exist and work efficiently. Designing such systems for public transport requires vision and collaboration of multiple agencies. Such works are policy based and it’s a collective effort by the government, consultants and administrative corporations. There are different criteria and parameters that work while designing such systems.

Criteria and parameters for designing public transport system Retrieved: unhabitat.org
Criteria and parameters for designing public transport system Retrieved: unhabitat.org

Whenever applied, such systems are either designed to be incorporated with existing infrastructure or designed as a part of a transporting system for a completely new urban development or a city. Generally a city consists of different types of areas i.e. residential, commercial, industrial, institutional/ universities and public spaces. The systems need to be designed in such a way that people are encouraged to travel via public transports.

Coming to present times, COVID -19 has had an immediate and drastic impact on transportation system and mobility. Maintaining social distance has become a tough task while using public transport and as the lock-down ended, people have started commuting in their private vehicles to protect themselves from getting exposed to the virus. This has made drastic changes in the pattern of public transport commuters.

Impact of COVID-19 on trips of public transport stations. Retrieved: slocat.net
Impact of COVID-19 on trips of public transport stations. Retrieved: slocat.net

While such trends of using private vehicles to commute are unsustainable in terms of utilization of resources and have a negative impact on environment due to carbon footprints, promoting non-motorized transportation for commuting is the need of the hour. Cycling tracks, pedestrian movement, self sufficiency in localities, electric bikes/scooters, skateboards etc. might offer some respite to the people as they are cheap and easily available as well as to our planet by reducing air pollution. In European countries, many start-ups are coming up which offer bike/scooter/skateboard renting options with easy pick-ups and parking solutions. Its time we lend a thought to this trend as this could greatly benefit our country in these hard times.

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