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A Big Stretch of Manhattan Is Going Car-Free for Earth Day

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EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

On Saturday, April 22, New Yorkers will be forced out of their cars. While the city is already one of America’s most pedestrian-friendly metropolises, Manhattan is giving more urban space over to people to walk and cycle in honor of Earth Day, as Gothamist reports.

A full 30 blocks of Broadway, one of the city’s major thoroughfares, will be closed to cars, trucks, and buses that Saturday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. That’s a major upgrade from last year’s Earth Day celebration when only four blocks of the street went car-free. The city’s other boroughs will also close some roads to cars for the day, though none of the other areas affected are as large as the Manhattan closure.

It’s a move in line with New York City’s plans to improve traffic safety and make the city more friendly towards bikes and pedestrians. This isn't the only time of the year pedestrians get to wander through city streets; New York also closes around seven miles of roads to vehicle traffic for three Sundays each August for an event called Summer Streets. But New York City is behind the curve when it comes to car-free days.

Several European cities, like Brussels, already participate in an annual car-free day, and many are moving to make pedestrian takeovers of roads more regular (though many don’t count city buses as cars for these purposes). Madrid’s Gran Vía will be closed to private cars in the next few years, according to plans from the city’s mayor, along with 24 of the city’s other major downtown streets. Oslo plans to eliminate private cars from its city center by 2019.

In September, Paris closed off more than 400 miles of its roads to car traffic, excluding public buses, taxis, and emergency vehicles. As part of Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s efforts to reduce pollution from cars, several areas of the city center will soon be permanently closed to cars, while other roads are closed semi-regularly, like the Champs-Élysées, which is pedestrian-only on the first Sunday of every month.

[h/t Gothamist]

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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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Ford Tests Exoskeletons That Make Overhead Tasks Easier for Workers
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Ford

Engineers have already developed exoskeletons capable of supporting elderly people and helping paralyzed people walk. But the technology offers benefits to able-bodied wearers as well. That's what employees are learning at Ford's U.S. factories. As Road Show reports, workers there are suiting up in upper body exoskeletons designed to alleviate fatigue and decrease their chance of injury.

Assembling car parts requires workers to reach their arms above their heads thousands of times a day. While most healthy individuals would have no problem doing this type of work for a few minutes at a time, the rate at which these employees are completing the tasks puts an enormous strain on their bodies. This can lead to back and shoulder fatigue, soreness, and even injury.

In an effort to make their workforce more comfortable and productive, Ford has been testing the EksoVest from Ekso Bionics in two of its American auto plants. The non-powered suits fit people between 5 feet and 6 feet 4 inches tall. The lightweight design provides up to 15 pounds of support to each arm without weighing wearers down or restricting their movements. According to Ford, the pilot program has contributed to an 83 percent drop in the number of incidents that led to time off between 2005 and 2016. And on top of staying healthy enough to go to work, employees have reported feeling more energized during their off hours.

The EksoVest has already helped workers launch several new vehicles, including the 2018 Ford Mustang and the 2018 Lincoln Navigator. Following the trial program's success, the automobile company next plans to test the technology in factories in Europe and South America.

[h/t Road Show]

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