Decades ago, the Vespa scooter changed the way people drive around cities. Now Piaggio Fast Forward--a division of the Piaggio Group, which developed the Vespa--is trying change the way they walk. Once users don a special belt, the Gita can follow them around, carrying as much as 40 lb. of cargo and using stereoscopic and fish-eye cameras to avoid obstacles. In the future, once Gitas have mapped a route, they may even be able to navigate on their own to, say, deliver goods. "We're inventing a new form of mobility," says PFF CEO Jeffrey Schnapp of the Gita, which is slated for commercial release in 2018.
I always get excited when I board a Southwest 737-800 plane. It is one of its newer planes, has mood lighting and the leg space and over head bin space is much better than that on the –700 which makes up the bulk of their equipment. The 800 manages to do so even though it has a capacity of 175 passengers compared to 143 on the 700. One irritating reason is Southwest quietly snuck in another row on the 700s a few years ago to the chagrin of 6 footers like me.
So, the 800 smells new and has more passenger amenities. What’s not to like? Ask the crew. To service more passengers on a stretched plane, the 800 has 4 crew members instead of 3. 3 worked in the back galley, I in the front. And Southwest introduced drink carts to allow them to service the extra load. Led to lots of crew complaints.
So, I was pleased to fly the latest configuration of the 800 yesterday (for a video of a walkthrough of the cabin, see this from Cranky Flier). The plane now has 2 galley stations in the front and two in the back, and has eliminated the carts. The back galley has two coffee makers and other changes which allow each of the 4 flight attendants to have their own work space and section of the plane to service.
Back to more passenger amenities. The plane has more space in the front galley for emergency equipment so has freed up even more bin space. The seats, part of the new what they call Heart interior, now have adjustable headrests. There are two seat back pockets now – one on top for magazines and such , one for small personal stuff. The tracks under the seats allowed for more stowage space ( at least on the aisle I was on) . The seat cushion now does not sit on a stiff metal frame but on a springy hammock so felt better. Aesthetically, I love the blue and white seats – much more professional looking.
Two nits – the armrests and the 3 restrooms are tiny. But balance that against fact that families actually don’t mind the former and love the fact that each restroom now has a changing table.
Overall, crew and passengers should both be happier. In my small sample from yesterday I would certainly say so. But the plane had people going to cruises and the beach in Tampa and onwards to San Juan. If they were headed to a ice bound city, may be the mood would have been less pleasant?
On our recent trip around the world, between us we flew 9 airlines. The no-frills Tiger flight from Singapore to Hong Kong was a reminder of how aviation used to be just a short while ago – no entertainment, no navigation, no web access. The other flights, in contrast, showed the remarkable range of consumer technology in the air these days.
The Delta Navigation UX
The Air France interactive Navigation UX
Singapore Air Navigation UX
Cameras on Emirates which show views from cockpit and the belly of the plane
Wide range of entertainment on Emirates, including the entire Star Wars movie set
We flew on wide bodies on most segments and most had power outlets and USB ports. Here is one on a Singapore 777
Internet availability is still spotty and expensive, but with GoGo, Delta has coverage over much of the world's water.
Rooftop tents are great, unless you're also traveling with bikes, skis, or boats. The two-person, rack-friendly Tepui White Lightning lets you bring them all. The hardtop's mounts attach to most popular racks to carry up to 60 additional pounds on top of the tent. Even when it's fully loaded, the fiberglass-platform tent pops open with enough room to sleep two. Climb up the included telescoping ladder, and through an oversize mesh door you'll find a 2.5-inch-thick foam mattress that guarantees a good night's sleep wherever you park.
‘The notion of building a flexibility engine, which is essentially the software that runs this thing, is applicable in a broad range of industries. Any industry where the complexity of the purchase relates to the customer's flexibility ultimately will use these kinds of flexibility engines. I believe we're really the first of an entirely new category of software here. I'll give you an example. In health care, if you say to me, "If you'll be flexible and drive an extra five minutes to get this X-ray, your health care provider will give you $50 in incentives to do it." Of course you're willing to make tradeoffs and be flexible as long as you have confidence in the product quality you're buying. The same is true with us. As long as we put you on a major airline and you get to see the airline in advance before you buy the package, your flexibility is something you're willing to modify. Show me what my flexibility is worth. It's true in health care, it's going be true in business travel. I suspect it's gonna be true in a fair number of places where people have flexibility. Nobody has ever been able to show them what it's worth. I'm willing to trade off comfort and convenience often for other benefits I want more. Right now those things are all invisible in the data set. But what big data software allows you to do is make invisible things visible.”
In the geopolitical sphere, the recently signed nuclear deal between Iran (in photo) and the UN security council has opened up opportunities for Americans to more readily visit the cosmopolitan capital of Tehran and the mosques of Kashan. And while Cuba was onlast year’s list, a spate of new cruises that dock in Havana—all thanks to eased travel restrictions for Americans—mean the destination is continuing to blossom. Cruise ships are also heading to Batumi, in Georgia, with its gorgeous botanical garden. It’s a Black Sea port that’s gaining attention from the big cruise brands given the safety concerns in Ukraine.