After-Action Report: RVM #57 with Bill James

Many thanks to Bill James (USMA ’72) for his talk this week on JPods and the Physical Internet!

JPods is a radical, solar-powered mobility concept that fits cleanly into existing urban infrastructure and promises to slash the cost and environmental impact of both local goods transport and the daily commute while “balancing the load” on existing transportation networks. The solar-powered, hanging-rail JPods infrastructure is inexpensive, scalable, and low-impact.

This was a fascinating discussion! Bill took us all the way back to the 1970s to show us the conceptual origins of packet-switched transport. He explained JPods as a natural extension of established network engineering principles into physical space, where JPods, autonomous vehicles, and shipping containers take the place of standardized data packets.

This is a lens that produces a lot of clarity. For example: packet size. Data networking has more or less settled on a 512-byte optimal packet size, but getting there took a LOT of trial and error. The physical analog is vehicle size. Just count: there are far more SUVs out there than there are railroad cars. So a JPods has about the capacity of an SUV.

Here’s another one: adaptive routing algorithms. When packets are routed through a data network, each packet may take a different path through the network as network conditions change. This gives data networks the ability to adjust seamlessly to damage or adverse traffic conditions, with minimal impact on latency. In physical terms: the larger a traditional transit system gets, the more it is affected by rush hours and traffic jams. But the larger a JPods network gets, the more smoothly traffic flows, even during periods of high usage!

There was MUCH more! Bill seeks partners to roll out JPods networks in cities nationwide. If you’re interested in being part of something big, get in touch!

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