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Stefan Olsson via Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stefan Olsson via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The Swedish Subculture Keeping 1950s America Alive

Stefan Olsson via Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stefan Olsson via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Going to a raggare meet feels like stepping out of a time machine. Attendees sporting slicked-back hair and leather jackets roll up in vintage hot rods, ready to spend the day drinking beer from the can and listening to Elvis Presley. The scene could be mistaken for the American South in the 1950s, until someone opens their mouth and starts speaking Swedish.

Raggare (from the Swedish "raga," which means "to pick up girls") is one of Scandinavia’s more bizarre subcultures. It originated with Swedish teens in the 1950s as that generation’s form of rebellion. Following World War II, the neutral country was in good economic shape compared to the rest of Europe: American cultural imports flowed across the border and lower class citizens finally had the money to buy them. Rockabilly music infiltrated Sweden, and more importantly, hot rods became popular. As American cars gained favor with the youth, so did the American greaser aesthetic.

Stefan Olsson via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

But raggare differed from its U.S. counterpart in one major way. Instead of fading away from the public consciousness, it persisted as the decades progressed. In 1978, the annual Power Big Meet began as a place for raggas to get together and show off their retro vehicles. Today, the event in Västerås, Sweden is the world’s biggest classic car show.

Though the subculture is far from obscure (their numbers were estimated at half a million in 2009) it’s certainly lost the youthful vibe it had in the 1950s. Many of today's members are older and can afford to buy the cars that have shot up in value in the past 50 years. But if young raggare devotees feel excluded by the high prices of vintage cars and Swedish gas, they do have options—painting an old Volvo black and bringing it to the meet isn’t unheard of.

Stefan Olsson via Flickr// CC BY 2.0
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Design Firm Envisions the Driverless School Bus of the Future
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Engineers have already designed vehicles capable of shuttling pizzas, packages, and public transit passengers without a driver present. But few have considered how this technology can be used to transport our most precious cargo: kids. Though most parents would be hesitant to send their children on a bus with no one in the driver's seat, one design firm believes autonomous vehicle technology can change their rides for the better. Their new conceptual project, called Hannah, illustrates their ideas for the future of school bus travel.

As Co.Design reports, Seattle-based design firm Teague tackled both the practical challenges and the social hurdles when designing their driverless school bus. Instead of large buses filled with dozens of kids, each Hannah vehicle is designed to hold a maximum of six passengers at a time. This offers two benefits: One, fewer kids on the route means the bus can afford to pick up each student at his or her doorstep rather than a designated bus stop. Facial recognition software would ensure every child is accounted for and that no unwanted passengers can gain access.

The second benefit is that a smaller number of passengers could help prevent bullying onboard. Karin Frey, a University of Washington sociologist who consulted with the team, says that larger groups of students are more likely to form toxic social hierarchies on a school bus. The six seats inside Hannah, which face each other cafeteria table-style, would theoretically place kids on equal footing.

Another way Hannah can foster a friendlier school bus atmosphere is inclusive design. Instead of assigning students with disabilities to separate cars, everyone can board Hannah regardless of their abilities. The vehicle drives low to the ground and extends a ramp to the road when dropping off passengers. This makes the boarding and drop-off process the same for everyone.

While the autonomous vehicles lack human supervisors, the buses can make up for this in other ways. Hannah can drive both backwards and forwards and let out children on either side of the car (hence the palindromic name). And when the bus isn’t ferrying kids to school, it can earn money for the district by acting as a delivery truck.

Still, it may be a while before you see Hannah zipping down your road: Devin Liddel, the project’s head designer, says it could take at least five years after driverless cars go mainstream for autonomous school buses to start appearing. All the regulations that come with anything involving public schools would likely prevent them from showing up any sooner. And when they do arrive, Teague suspects that major tech corporations could be the ones to finally clear the path.

"Could Amazon or Lyft—while deploying a future of roving, community-centric delivery vehicles—take over the largest form of mass transit in the United States as a sort of side gig?" the firm's website reads. "Hannah is an initial answer, a prototype from the future, to these questions."

[h/t Co.Design]

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Wisconsin Considers Building a Highway Lane for Self-Driving Cars
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Self-driving cars are already a reality, as companies like Google and Tesla have demonstrated. But the logistics of getting them on the roads with human-operated cars have slowed down their long-anticipated takeover. In Wisconsin, highway planners are looking into one way to accommodate autonomous vehicles when they arrive. Dedicated lanes for driverless cars are being considered for I-94, USA Today’s Journal Sentinel reports.

The project is supported by Foxconn, the Taiwanese tech supplier building a new facility 20 miles outside of downtown Milwaukee. Once the site is complete, it will cover 20 million square feet and employ up to 13,000 people. According to the company, setting aside space for self-driving vehicles could ease traffic congestion, both from new workers and cargo trucks, after the factory opens.

Officials were already planning to expand I-94 from six lanes to eight to accommodate the eventual increase in traffic, but Foxconn says that may not be enough. “We’re thinking about two years down the road; they’re thinking 20 years down the road,” Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, said at a meeting of the Greater Milwaukee Committee.

While Sheehy said the autonomous car lane proposal is “on the table,” he didn’t make any promises regarding the plan’s future. Wisconsin isn’t the only state looking ahead to new developments in road travel: In October, tech investors pitched an idea to Washington state officials to convert Interstate 5 into a corridor for autonomous vehicles between Seattle and Vancouver.

[h/t Journal Sentinel]

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