Design Research, Student Work


Design Studio - Future of Work

Project details


Design Studio - Future of Work


Parsons School of Design


Design Research, Student Work


This project was the outcome of a studio class focused in The Future of Work, executed as part of the MFA Transdisciplinary Design program at The Parsons School of Design .

As we progress into the era of autonomous cars and densely populated cities, we will soon be faced with traffic mayhem and will need to find new ways of organizing our urban transport to suit these mega cities of the future. Shift is a proposal for how we might change the way we think about cars and traffic systems, both in terms of how they operate at a personal level, and how the economic systems around them work. It is a conceptual socially owned business that lives in the year 2057.


Traffic flows today

Traffic flows in the world of this project’s fiction

The Story

The wintery morning came with biting winds and a fresh blanket of snow across the city. Benz woke up from its deep charge sleep. His old battery had been acting up for the past few days – it was getting hard to get a full night’s charge. Today again, it had only managed to climb up to 70%. He would have to stop for a recharge during lunch. He never liked going for a midday charge. The wait was excruciating. The line of transporters waiting for a charge was growing every day.

Benz shook himself out of his sleepy stupor and plugged into the city-wide transportation system, ready to start his day. As on most days, he immediately picked up a movement request from Amir. Amir was a real regular – Benz had taken up his requests so often that Amir felt like the car owners of the past. It was like Benz existed mostly for Amir’s needs. As Benz rolled around to the gate of 45 Jackson Avenue, he could hear Amir’s familiar shuffle as he rushed down the lobby and got in. Amir was never on time. Every morning was a mad rush to work. He’d always pick the express option, paying a little extra to ensure that Benz would take him straight from point A to B without picking up passengers along the way.

Amir looked out of sorts today. It really looked like he could use a coffee, so Benz decides to pop up a drive by coffee place as a suggestion, and Amir gratefully says yes. The coffee place is close to Amir’s work, so Benz decides to take the express lane to downtown. To Benz’s relief, two more transporters are headed that way, so they hook up. Benz can now save charge and just be pulled along till he gets off the highway. It’s a nice day out and the sun is just perfect for a little bonus charge, so he puts himself into charge mode till exit 11A and patches his control interface into secondary mode, letting Cathy, the large transporter pulling the little convoy, take charge.

As he rushed down the stairs running late yet again, Amir found himself regretting getting drunk last night. Old enough to remember a time when people actually controlled the transporters, he was just glad that drunk driving had now been relegated to the pages of history. The papers now ran amok when an accident happened, claiming that transporters would mean the death of us all. But honestly, he couldn’t remember the last time someone died in a road accident.

He felt a jingling in his pocket – he had walked away last night with someone else’s keys. They looked like Sophie’s keys. “No time now. I’ll call her after I get on Benz”. He’d grown attached to Benz. Benz was the first transporter he’d ever ridden on, and because he was usually parked close to Amir’s apartment, Benz was assigned to Amir’s movement requests very often. Benz was warmed up perfectly to Amir’s preference – the old transporter sure knew him well. At least it felt like that, although Amir knew that his temperature preferences had probably been broadcasted and shared with the 100’s of other transporters he must have ridden. Benz’s coffee suggestion was just what the moment called for too. “Machines are so much better than humans at understanding me sometimes”.

He called Sophie. A groggy voice on the other end tells him she had no idea she didn’t have her keys. Classic Sophie! She really needs to cut down on her alcohol. Amir sets up a request for Benz to take the keys to her at her uptown apartment, just as they’re pulling into the drive by coffee. There’s no stopping. The coffee is transferred into the car through its delivery mechanism. Stopping cars to get things done has also been consigned to history. There aren’t any traffic lights anymore too. And although he hated these things, Amir finds himself briefly nostalgic about old school traffic and shouting at the idiots on the road. The transporters aren’t idiots – they were built not to be. He puts Sophie’s keys into Benz’s delivery port and gets off, saying a soft bye as he walked off. Benz won’t respond, he’s not programmed to. But it always felt like, in his own, machinic way, Benz always did.

It had been an early morning for Andrew. As usual, Amir was not to be expected at work till later in the day, leaving the morning’s shipments up to Andrew to figure. The orders for the phone that his company had just launched had flowed in on the Black Friday sales event. He was now left in charge of shipping thousands of phones for the holiday season. Andrew was never one for the holiday season. His usual somber self could not handle the excess cheeriness that wafts through the air this time of the year. Over a cup of coffee, he decided to wait it out until 10am when everyone else would usually shuffle into work. He had already put in movement requests for about 1000 pieces, but given the rush hour, he wasn’t expecting the transporters to arrive before 10. He planned on putting out an express order. Express orders weren’t something he liked doing. It cost the company more and pulled an entire convoy of transporters away from commuters at rush hour.

Just as he met a groggy Amir at the water cooler, his phone beeped to let him know that there were 4 transporters waiting to load his shipment at the automatic dock, pending his approval. A wry smile spanned across his face. He’d saved up some more for his company. If he kept this up, a pay bump was not far away.

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