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  • Some people are obsessed by French wines.

  • Others love playing golf

  • or devouring literature.

  • One of my greatest pleasures in life is, I have to admit,

  • a bit special.

  • I cannot tell you how much I enjoy watching cities from the sky,

  • from an airplane window.

  • Some cities are calmly industrious,

  • like Dusseldorf

  • or Louisville.

  • Others project an energy that they can hardly contain,

  • like New York

  • or Hong Kong.

  • And then you have Paris

  • or Istanbul,

  • and their patina full of history.

  • I see cities as living beings.

  • And when I discover them from far above,

  • I like to find those main streets and highways that structure their space.

  • Especially at night,

  • when commuters make these arteries look dramatically red and golden:

  • the city's vascular system performing its vital function

  • right before your eyes.

  • But when I'm sitting in my car

  • after an hour and a half of commute every day,

  • that reality looks very different.

  • Nothing --

  • not public radio,

  • no podcast --

  • Not even mindfulness meditation

  • makes this time worth living.

  • Isn't it absurd

  • that we created cars that can reach 130 miles per hour

  • and we now drive them at the same speed as 19th-century horse carriages?

  • In the US alone,

  • we spent 29.6 billion hours commuting in 2014.

  • With that amount of time,

  • ancient Egyptians could have built 26 Pyramids of Giza.

  • We do that in one year.

  • A monumental waste of time, energy and human potential.

  • For decades,

  • our remedy for congestion was simple:

  • build new roads or enlarge existing ones.

  • And it worked.

  • It worked admirably for Paris,

  • when the city tore down hundreds of historical buildings

  • to create 85 miles

  • of transportation-friendly boulevards.

  • And it still works today in fast-growing emerging cities.

  • But in more established urban centers,

  • significant network expansions are almost impossible:

  • habitat is just too dense,

  • real estate, too expensive

  • and public finances, too fragile.

  • Our city's vascular system is getting clogged, it's getting sick,

  • and we should pay attention.

  • Our current way of thinking is not working.

  • For our transportation to flow,

  • we need a new source of inspiration.

  • So after 16 years working in transportation,

  • my "aha moment" happened when speaking with a biotech customer.

  • She was telling me how her treatment

  • was leveraging specific properties of our vascular system.

  • "Wow," I thought, "Our vascular system --

  • all the veins and arteries in our body

  • making miracles of logistics every day."

  • This is the moment I realized

  • that biology has been in the transportation business

  • for billions of years.

  • It has been testing countless solutions

  • to move nutrients, gases and proteins.

  • It really is the world's most sophisticated transportation laboratory.

  • So, what if the solution to our traffic challenges was inside us?

  • I wanted to know:

  • Why is it that blood flows in our veins most of our lives,

  • when our big cities get clogged on a daily basis?

  • And the reality is that you're looking at two very different networks.

  • I don't know if you realize,

  • but each of us has 60,000 miles of blood vessels in our bodies --

  • 60,000 miles.

  • That's two-and-a-half times the Earth's circumference,

  • inside you.

  • What it means is that blood vessels are everywhere inside us,

  • not just under the surface of our skin.

  • But if you look at our cities,

  • yes, we have some underground subway systems

  • and some tunnels and bridges,

  • and also some helicopters in the sky.

  • But the vast majority of our traffic is focused on the ground,

  • on the surface.

  • So in other words,

  • while our vascular system uses the three dimensions inside us,

  • our urban transportation is mostly two-dimensional.

  • And so what we need is to embrace that verticality.

  • If our surface grid is saturated,

  • well, let's elevate our traffic.

  • This Chinese concept of a bus that can straddle traffic jams --

  • that was an eye-opener on new ways to think about space and movement

  • inside our cities.

  • And we can go higher,

  • and suspend our transportation like we did with our electrical grid.

  • Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi are talking about testing

  • these futuristic networks of suspended magnetic pods.

  • And we can keep climbing, and fly.

  • The fact that a company like Airbus is now seriously working on flying urban taxis

  • is telling us something.

  • Flying cars are finally moving from science-fiction déjà vu

  • to attractive business-case territory.

  • And that's an exciting moment.

  • So building this 3-D transportation network

  • is one of the ways that we can mitigate and solve traffic jams.

  • But it's not the only one.

  • We have to question

  • other fundamental choices that we made, like the vehicles we use.

  • Just imagine a very familiar scene:

  • You've been driving for 42 minutes.

  • The two kids behind you are getting restless.

  • And you're late.

  • Do you see that slow car in front of you?

  • Always comes when you're late, right?

  • That driver is looking for parking.

  • There is no parking spot available in the area,

  • but how would he know?

  • It is estimated that up to 30 percent of urban traffic is generated

  • by drivers looking for parking.

  • Do you see the 100 cars around you?

  • Eighty-five of them only have one passenger.

  • Those 85 drivers could all fit in one Londonian red bus.

  • So the question is:

  • Why are we wasting so much space if it is what we need the most?

  • Why are we doing this to ourselves?

  • Biology would never do this.

  • Space inside our arteries is fully utilized.

  • At every heartbeat,

  • a higher blood pressure literally compacts millions of red blood cells

  • into massive trains of oxygen

  • that quickly flow throughout our body.

  • And the tiny space inside our red blood cells is not wasted, either.

  • In healthy conditions,

  • more than 95 percent of their oxygen capacity is utilized.

  • Can you imagine if the vehicles we used in our cities

  • were 95 percent full,

  • all the additional space you would have to walk, to bike

  • and to enjoy our cities?

  • The reason blood is so incredibly efficient

  • is that our red blood cells are not dedicated

  • to specific organs or tissues;

  • otherwise, we would probably have traffic jams in our veins.

  • No, they're shared.

  • They're shared by all the cells of our body.

  • And because our network is so extensive,

  • each one of our 37 trillion cells gets its own deliveries of oxygen

  • precisely when it needs them.

  • Blood is both a collective and individual form of transportation.

  • But for our cities,

  • we've been stuck.

  • We've been stuck in an endless debate

  • between creating a car-centric society or extensive mass-transit systems.

  • I think we should transcend this.

  • I think we can create vehicles that combine the convenience of cars and the efficiencies of trains and buses.

  • Just imagine.

  • You're comfortably sitting in a fast and smooth urban train,

  • along with 1,200 passengers.

  • The problem with urban trains

  • is that sometimes you have to stop five, ten, fifteen times

  • before your final destination.

  • What if in this train you didn't have to stop?

  • In this train,

  • wagons can detach dynamically while you're moving

  • and become express, driverless buses

  • that move on a secondary road network.

  • And so without a single stop,

  • nor a lengthy transfer,

  • you are now sitting in a bus that is headed toward your suburb.

  • And when you get close,

  • the section you're sitting in detaches

  • and self-drives you right to your doorstep.