Seminar: Robin Chase: How Wireless Can Move Us to More Sustainable Transportation

Remarks by Robin Chase, co-founder of Zipcar and founder and chief executive of GoLoco and Meadow Networks.

Climatologists tell us that if worldwide CO2 emissions peak in 2015 — seven years from now — we have only a 50/50 chance of avoiding catastrophic effects of climate change. Achieving this target will require policies to begin reducing emissions in the U.S. and industrialized nations on an even faster timetable. A good many tools in the transportation kit require major infrastructure build outs and the changing over of fleets, none of which produce significant CO2 reductions as quickly as needed. Strategies that directly influence transportation behavior, such as market- and cost-based pricing, can affect emissions rates much more quickly. But changes in behavior, cost structures, and lifestyle are a hard sell with the public. How can we sweeten this deal for transportation users? One key lies in wireless technologies that transform our experience and costs associated with car travel (car sharing and ride sharing), and can provide a new economic platform for innovation and economic development (mesh networking). One key to making this innovation economically feasible in the near term is to ensure that the investments we are making today in wireless communications infrastructure — including systems for traffic management — provide an open network and open-access platform. Other supportive public policies are also required.

About the speaker

Robin co-founded Zipcar and, as CEO of Meadow Networks, shaped and led the company to become the largest and fastest-growing car-sharing company in North America, whose use of the Internet and wireless technology enables rental cars to emulate personal cars. Zipcar’s disruptive technology facilitates secure vehicle entry and authorized payment processing of hundreds of thousands of driving transactions in real-time, giving its members on-demand access to cars by-the-hour. Robin is also known for the evangelical virtual community she created among the members.

Robin lectures widely and has been frequently featured in the major media including the Today Show, The New York Times, National Public Radio, Fortune, Fast Company, Wired, and Time magazines, as well as several books on entrepreneurship. She has won numerous innovation, business, and environmental awards. Robin currently serves on the National Smart Growth Council, the Kyoto Cities Initiative International Advisory Panel, and the Boston Mayor’s Wireless City Task Force.

She graduated from Wellesley College and MIT’s Sloan School of Management, and won the competitive Harvard University Loeb Fellowship. A 4-minute TV segment on Robin’s recent work can be found here.