At Home in the Megacity – Los Angeles

Jill Wiltfong works as Senior Vice President Global Marketing at DEKRA Insight in Los Angeles. A city with many commuters and daily traffic jam.

Jill Wiltfong,

Jill Wiltfong: “I spend so much of my life stuck in the car. Sometimes I wish I could just teleport”, Photo: Ann Johansson

The topic of transport is one that occupies Jill Wiltfong on a daily basis. She is Senior Vice President for Global Marketing at DEKRA Insight, and works in Los Angeles. Her daily commute takes her through orange groves and strawberry fields. Each day, she commutes more than 160 kilometers – 80 kilometers there, 80 kilometers back. “I spend a lot of time in my car,” she says. She lives with her husband and three children in Valencia, a suburb of Santa Clarita on the outskirts of
metropolitan Los Angeles – the biggest city in the US state of California, with around 18 million residents. “Very few people live in Los Angeles itself,” explains Jill Wiltfong. It’s too expensive, too loud, too busy. Out in Valencia, life is calm by comparison. Almost every house has a pool, and there is little traffic. The hustle and bustle of the megacity feels an eternity away. But there’s a price. For Jill Wiltfong, that takes the form of ten hours in the driving seat each week. “It’s difficult. I’d be more productive if I didn’t have to drive so much. But there’s no alternative to the car.” There are 1.8 cars for every resident of Los Angeles. Cars crawl along Interstate Highway 110 at a snail’s pace, bumper to bumper. It feels like there isn’t enough room for even one more vehicle. The idling engines belch out pollution. Due to the smog, the megacity appears enveloped within a murky dome. A large proportion of the city’s CO₂ emissions are generated by cars and trucks. Even now, after massive improvements in recent years, satellite images provided by NASA reveal that the air quality remains poor, especially in the city’s
hubs. On a wider scale, the World Health Organization WHO recently announced that 92 per cent of the world’s population are breathing polluted air.

But pollution is not the only problem that the gridlocked traffic presents. Jill Wiltfong addresses the topic of road safety: “I see accidents on my way to work most days, the result of people using their phones to talk or message while driving. Something needs to change, and fast.”

Safety is an aspect that will only increase in relevance. Steffen Braun from the Fraunhofer IAO explains one of the key reasons: “Nowadays, we plan cities, buildings and infrastructure to last for decades. Yet we don’t yet know for sure, how things will develop.” He adds: “There will be many new issues that will arise as time goes on. As far as megacities go, smart city technologies and their adaptability will play an important role.”

Smarter cities through digital tech

The term ‘smart city’ describes development concepts through which a city can use digital technologies to become more environmentally friendly, efficient and progressive. It can do this through a variety of different ways. For example, the issue of the region’s closed-loop economy is a central focus of smart cities. Non-renewable resources are only to be used in the smallest of quantities, with transit distances also to be minimized as far as possible. Road traffic should also be alleviated. Pertinent solutions may involve apps that suggest alternate routes to drivers at peak traffic times, or highlight available parking spaces, so as to avoid unnecessary journeys.

The subject of safety also plays an important role. One example is the monitoring of public spaces via cameras, which enables immediate police intervention. In addition to their countless advantages, smart cities also pose many dangers. “There are lots of electronic devices in use, all networked with one another, and commonly with the Internet too,” explains Beat Kreuter from DEKRA Certification B. V. “There is always the risk of hacking attacks.” For this reason, DEKRA subsidiary AT4 wireless – operating as DEKRA since April – is working on making these devices more secure. “Safety used to mean that we ensured machines were not damaging to their environments, and could be safely operated by their users. Nowadays, the goal is to ensure that devices used for certain functions remain safe, when they are attacked by an external parties. Only through this can cities truly become safer.”

Author: Daniela Lukaßen

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More reportages on living in a megacity:

At Home in the Megacity – Life in São Paulo

At Home in the Megacity – Life in Mumbai

At Home in the Megacity – Life in Shanghai

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