Commuters and Computers: Mapping U.S. Megaregions
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Commuters and Computers: Mapping U.S. Megaregions

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US Megaregions Map

Commuters and Computers: Mapping U.S. Megaregions

From California’s Bay Area to the highly-integrated Great Lakes Economy, megaregions are a dominating aspect of human geography and commerce. It should be no surprise then, that 85% of corporate head offices in the US and Canada are overwhelmingly concentrated in the core cities of great megaregions.

We tend to think of cities as individual economic units, but as they expand outward and bleed together, defining them simply by official jurisdictions and borders becomes difficult. After all, many of the imaginary lines divvying up the country are remnants of decisions from centuries ago – and other county and state lines exist for more counterintuitive reasons such as gerrymandering.

What if there was a more data-driven approach to examine America’s urban networks?

Computer, Take The Wheel

By ignoring borders and looking purely at commuter data, geographer Garrett Nelson and urban analyst Alasdair Rae looked to map the relationship between population centers in their paper, An Economic Geography of the United States: From Commutes to Mega-regions.

Minneapolis Map
Researchers used visual and algorithmic approaches to build their map.

The study used network partitioning software to link together 4 million commutes between census tracts. This gives us a very granular look at the “gravitational pull” of America’s population centers, and helps us better understand the economic links that bind a region together.

By combining visual and mathematical approaches, and some creative place-naming, the researchers created a map that they hope reflects America’s true economic geography.

megaregions us map

Algorithmic Insights

The concept of megaregions is hardly new, and there are already definitions for global megacities that use everything from infrastructure systems to light patterns derived from satellite imagery.

That said, this research is fine example of using data and an algorithmic approach to look at systems in a new way, unburdened by our political and cultural preconceptions.

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Technology

Every Mission to Mars in One Visualization

This graphic shows a timeline of every mission to Mars since 1960, highlighting which ones have been successful and which ones haven’t.

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Timeline: A Historical Look at Every Mission to Mars

Within our Solar System, Mars is one of the most similar planets to Earth—both have rocky landscapes, solid outer crusts, and cores made of molten rock.

Because of its similarities to Earth and proximity, humanity has been fascinated by Mars for centuries. In fact, it’s one of the most explored objects in our Solar System.

But just how many missions to Mars have we embarked on, and which of these journeys have been successful? This graphic by Jonathan Letourneau shows a timeline of every mission to Mars since 1960 using NASA’s historical data.

A Timeline of Mars Explorations

According to a historical log from NASA, there have been 48 missions to Mars over the last 60 years. Here’s a breakdown of each mission, and whether or not they were successful:

#LaunchNameCountryResult
11960Korabl 4USSR (flyby)Failure
21960Korabl 5USSR (flyby)Failure
31962Korabl 11USSR (flyby)Failure
41962Mars 1USSR (flyby)Failure
51962Korabl 13USSR (flyby)Failure
61964Mariner 3US (flyby)Failure
71964Mariner 4US (flyby)Success
81964Zond 2USSR (flyby)Failure
91969Mars 1969AUSSRFailure
101969Mars 1969BUSSRFailure
111969Mariner 6US (flyby)Success
121969Mariner 7US (flyby)Success
131971Mariner 8USFailure
141971Kosmos 419USSRFailure
151971Mars 2 Orbiter/LanderUSSRFailure
161971Mars 3 Orbiter/LanderUSSRSuccess/Failure
171971Mariner 9USSuccess
181973Mars 4USSRFailure
191973Mars 5USSRSuccess
201973Mars 6 Orbiter/LanderUSSRSuccess/Failure
211973Mars 7 LanderUSSRFailure
221975Viking 1 Orbiter/LanderUSSuccess
231975Viking 2 Orbiter/LanderUSSuccess
241988Phobos 1 OrbiterUSSRFailure
251988Phobos 2 Orbiter/LanderUSSRFailure
261992Mars ObserverUSFailure
271996Mars Global SurveyorUSSuccess
281996Mars 96RussiaFailure
291996Mars PathfinderUSSuccess
301998NozomiJapanFailure
311998Mars Climate OrbiterUSFailure
321999Mars Polar LanderUSFailure
331999Deep Space 2 Probes (2)USFailure
342001Mars OdysseyUSSuccess
352003Mars Express Orbiter/Beagle 2 LanderESASuccess/Failure
362003Mars Exploration Rover - SpiritUSSuccess
372003Mars Exploration Rover - OpportunityUSSuccess
382005Mars Reconnaissance OrbiterUSSuccess
392007Phoenix Mars LanderUSSuccess
402011Mars Science LaboratoryUSSuccess
412011Phobos-Grunt/Yinghuo-1Russia/ChinaFailure
422013Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutionUSSuccess
432013Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM)IndiaSuccess
442016ExoMars Orbiter/Schiaparelli EDL Demo LanderESA/RussiaSuccess/Failure
452018Mars InSight LanderUSSuccess
462020Hope OrbiterUAESuccess
472020Tianwen-1 Orbiter/Zhurong RoverChinaSuccess
482020Mars 2020 Perseverance RoverUSSuccess

The first mission to Mars was attempted by the Soviets in 1960, with the launch of Korabl 4, also known as Mars 1960A.

As the table above shows, the voyage was unsuccessful. The spacecraft made it 120 km into the air, but its third-stage pumps didn’t generate enough momentum for it to stay in Earth’s orbit.

For the next few years, several more unsuccessful Mars missions were attempted by the USSR and then NASA. Then, in 1964, history was made when NASA launched the Mariner 4 and completed the first-ever successful trip to Mars.

The Mariner 4 didn’t actually land on the planet, but the spacecraft flew by Mars and was able to capture photos, which gave us an up-close glimpse at the planet’s rocky surface.

Then on July 20, 1976, NASA made history again when its spacecraft called Viking 1 touched down on Mars’ surface, making it the first space agency to complete a successful Mars landing. Viking 1 captured panoramic images of the planet’s terrain, and also enabled scientists to monitor the planet’s weather.

Vacation to Mars, Anyone?

To date, all Mars landings have been done without crews, but NASA is planning to send humans to Mars by the late 2030s.

And it’s not just government agencies that are planning missions to Mars—a number of private companies are getting involved, too. Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX has a long-term plan to build an entire city on Mars.

Two other aerospace startups, Impulse and Relativity, also announced an unmanned joint mission to Mars in July 2022, with hopes it could be ready as soon as 2024.

As more players are added to the mix, the pressure is on to be the first company or agency to truly make it to Mars. If (or when) we reach that point, what’s next is anyone’s guess.

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Misc

Brand Loyalty is Declining for Most Luxury Automakers

Brand loyalty has declined for most luxury automakers, but three brands—Tesla, Maserati, and Genesis—appear to have bucked the trend.

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Brand Loyalty is Declining for Most Luxury Automakers

New research conducted by S&P Global Mobility has found that brand loyalty—measured as the percentage of buyers that go back to the same brand for their next vehicle—is falling across the luxury segment.

In this infographic, we’ve visualized the results of this research, which spans from January 2020 to April 2022.

Brand Loyalty Losers

The following brands have all experienced a drop in brand loyalty over the time period.

For additional context, we’ve also included each brand’s score in the J.D. Power 2022 Initial Quality Study. This is measured based on the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100) in the first 90 days of ownership.

BrandPercentage Point Change
in Brand Loyalty
PP100
🇬🇧 Land Rover-9.2193
🇩🇪 Porsche-8.5200
🇺🇸 Lincoln-7.9167
🇩🇪 Audi-7.3239
🇩🇪 Mercedes-Benz-7.0189
🇮🇹 Alfa Romeo-6.6211
🇺🇸 Cadillac-6.4163
🇸🇪 Volvo-5.3256
🇯🇵 Infiniti-5.2204
🇬🇧 Jaguar-5.1210
🇯🇵 Lexus-4.8157
Luxury average-4.5199
🇯🇵 Acura-2.7192
🇩🇪 BMW-2.3165

Land Rover experienced the biggest drop in loyalty, despite a better than average PP100 rating. One potential reason is timing⁠—the brand’s premier model, the Range Rover, has been in its fourth generation since 2012. The SUV has become relatively dated, though a new fifth generation was recently revealed for the 2022 model year.

Two Volkswagen Group brands, Audi and Porsche, also fared poorly in terms of loyalty. This is somewhat surprising, as both brands offer a portfolio of both gasoline and electric models. Many competitors, such as Acura, Lexus, and Maserati, have yet to release an EV.

Brand Loyalty Winners

Three brands have managed to buck the trend, as shown below.

BrandPercentage Point Change
in Brand Loyalty
PP100
Luxury average-4.5199
🇺🇸 Tesla+4.0226
🇮🇹 Maserati+4.3255
🇰🇷 Genesis+8.5156

We can draw parallels between Tesla and Apple, in that both have incredibly loyal followers.

For instance, between March 2021 to April 2022, 62% of buyers/households who returned to market and previously owned a Model 3 purchased a new Tesla. That’s an impressive statistic, especially when we consider Tesla’s history of build quality issues.

Maserati appears to be in the same boat. The Italian automaker has strengthened its brand loyalty by 4.3 percentage points, despite having the luxury segment’s worst PP100. Perhaps build quality matters less than we think.

Another Factor to Consider

Ongoing supply chain issues could also be contributing to wide-spread declines in loyalty. Rather than waiting several months (or in the case of EVs, years), buyers may switch to a different brand that has cars in stock.

We are still monitoring it week to week, but up to now basically worldwide, we had no issues running production.
– Joerg Burzer, Mercedes-Benz

Many automakers have reported that their supply issues are diminishing, though new economic challenges have risen. For example, surging inflation has pushed the price of a new car to record highs. Combined with rising interest rates (cost of borrowing), this could negatively impact the demand for new cars.

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