This May 3 to May 6, the Brooklyn Navy Yard's Duggal Greenhouse is hosting the inaugural Smart Cities NYC conference and expo. Smart Cities NYC is ambitious in its scope, with a global selection of speakers whose backgrounds include government, the tech industry, academia, real estate/development, and design. Autonomous vehicles, public health, construction technology, resilient urban landscapes, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are just a few of the subjects being discussed. The Architect's Newspaper is covering the first two days of the conference—stay tuned for another article tomorrow! Transportation was a fixture of the first day's programming. At the "Integrated Urban Mobility" panel, the conversation revolved around how car and bike sharing companies were changing cities and their streetscapes. The panel kicked off with an urban design question: How will cities treat curbside parking now that, with the advent of car sharing, it's less necessary? Now that it's free for other uses, "space along the curb [may soon] be very valuable," said Jay Walder, CEO of bike share company Motivate. However, "one of the most challenging things cities need to do" is to determine how to regulate, share, and maintain these spaces as private care ownership disappears. Portland's TriMet that consolidate various "subscriptions" of private and public transit in a single place. In theory, this would let commuters move fluidly between transportation options. Kristof Vereenooghe, CEO of EV-Box, a company that supplies electric charging stations and related services, added that such apps are already common in Europe. Overall, the panel seemed optimistic these changes would steadily snowball into a full transportation revolution. People are realizing the value of short commutes and, in a future of shared commuting, the financially vulnerable can also be freed from the monetary burdens of car ownership. Add developers into the mix of transportation-savvy urbanites, and there's a strong driving force for change. driverless cars. Dan Galves, chief communications officer at vision-based driver assistance systems company Mobileye, started the panel by saying fully driveless, autonomous, mass-produced cars could be here by 2024 to 2025. As compared to the previous panel, this one was even more bullish on the future: "All this technology is leading to seamless intermodal transportation—faster, safer, more tailored," said Scott Corwin, managing director of Deloitte Consulting's Future of Mobility Leader initiative. And as with a similar panel at another recent transportation conference, the consensus was that networks of shared, driverless, electric vehicles would be the ideal future scenario. But before we get there, the panel agreed that cities would act as crucial testbeds, using their varying and unique layouts to expose weaknesses in autonomous driving systems. One "tremendously huge challenge" does remain, said John Moavenzadeh, head of Mobility Industries and System Initiative at the World Economic Forum. Each city and country has its own "culture" for how to pay for its roads. A road pricing system (also a subject in the previous panel) will be a challenge to create. Corwin helped conclude the panel on a forceful note, saying we "need creative, digitally-based, sustainable, equitable solutions," because there will be no more 2nd Ave. Subways or Robert Moses to fix transportation challenges the old way. Want more technology news for the architecture, engineering, and construction industries? Don't miss The Architect's Newspaper's Tech+ expo, coming to New York City this May 23!
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The American Center for Mobility, a non-profit product development and testing facility, has broken ground on a new driverless vehicle testing site in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The 335-acre mock town and highway facility is being built at the former World War II Willow Run bomber factory. The $80-million facility is planned to open in December 2017 and will be made available for private, government, and academic use. The site was picked because it already includes many structures and roadways that will aid in the testing, including wide-lane road and overpasses. When completed, the final campus will include multiple driving situations and settings including areas designated as residential, rural, urban, commercial, off-road, and high speed. The mission of the facility will be to test vehicle safety in a controlled, yet realistic, environment, as well as research mobility technologies. “This is the start of a new era at a site incredibly rich with history,” said John Maddox, president and CEO of the American Center for Mobility. “While there are many well-known transportation and manufacturing innovations at this site, the first use of this property was as a teaching orchard developed by Henry Ford. We’re planting an apple tree here today to honor the heritage and continue the tradition of innovation, education, and good stewardship.” The Willow Run complex was originally built in 1941 by the Ford Motor Company to produce components for the Douglas Aircraft B-24 Liberator heavy bomber. In less than a year, the plant began producing and assembling the entire aircraft. By 1945, when production seized, Willow Run had produced nearly half of the Liberators for the war effort. Along with the plant, an airport was built so the planes could take off immediately after production. After the war, the airport was transferred to civilian use and the plant was bought and sold multiple times. The last owner and operator of the plant was Ford’s rival General Motors. The American Center for Mobility is a joint initiative between the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the University of Michigan, the Business Leaders for Michigan and Ann Arbor SPARK.
IBM Watson launches a “Siri for Cities” app as more tech companies clamor for smart cities where “things” can communicate and supply data
The IT industry is pushing relentlessly to institutionalize smart cities by installing internet-connected lampposts, digital signage, building facades, and more. IT research and advisory firm Gartner predicts that by 2020, 2.9 billion connected "things" will be in use in the consumer sector. IBM Watson jas joined the breakneck race with the launch of its “Siri for Cities,” a cognitive computing platform that enables users to ask complex questions about city services. By speaking into their smartphones, laptops or Apple Watches, residents can inquire about fire and police services to parking and waste collection. The app supplies responses by drawing upon a database of FAQs, but IBM has outfitted the technology to interact with the language of more in-depth questions, analyse swaths of data, and respond in a concise, evidence-based manner. The mobile app will be piloted in Surrey, Canada, to create a centralized hub for the city. Purple Forge, a digital agency hired by the local government, is working to integrate these capabilities into the pre-existing “My Surrey” app, which streams hyper-local news, events, job listings, bike routes, parking information, and more in real-time. “IBM Watson’s learning abilities are such that the technology builds its knowledge and improves as citizens use it, much in the same way humans learn,” said Bruce Hayne, chair of Surrey’s Innovation and Investment Committee. “This pilot is expected to enhance customer experience by increasing the accessibility of services while providing the city with insight into opportunities for improvement and reduction to service delivery costs.” Reliant on data and interactivity, IBM’s new gadgetry overlaps noticeably with Google’s recently launched Sidewalk Labs, an independent company that aims to develop and incubate new technology to address urban ills. After acquiring Titan and Control Group, Sidewalk Labs announced its first initiative: resuming the work of Link NYC to convert New York City’s unused phone booths into public WiFi hubs. According to the FCC, 55 million people in the United States lack broadband internet access. The WiFi hubs will be tall, thin pillars with digital tablet interfaces and large ads slapped on the sides to keep them free to use. Through Titan’s ad network, Link NYC could bring $500 million in ad revenue to the city over the next 12 years, the DeBlasio administration has predicted. Meanwhile, City Science researchers at MIT’s Media Lab are building mobility networks for “multi-modal transit.” One initiative is a search and recommendation engine for a variety of energy-saving transit modes, such as car-pooling and bike-sharing, determined by weather, traffic, and past user patterns. Researchers are angling for further energy cutbacks by designing and prototyping electric scooters, driverless cars, and compact bike-lane vehicles.
This fake town by the University of Michigan to become testing ground for developing smarter driverless cars
Researchers the University of Michigan just one-upped a recent virtual SimCity project for testing smart technologies of future cities. A tangible, 32-acre testing ground for driverless cars called MCity pits autonomous vehicles against every conceivable real-life obstacle, minus the caprice of human drivers. The uninhabited town in the university's North Campus Research Complex contains suburban and city roadways, building facades, sidewalks, bike lanes and streetlights. Recreating street conditions in a controlled environment means teaching robotic vehicles to interpret graffiti-defaced road signs, faded line markings, construction obstacles and other quotidian surprises which AI is still ill-equipped to handle. By dint of moveable facades, researchers can create any condition—from blind corners to odd intersections—to develop more conscientious self-driving vehicles. Vehicles will navigate city terrain from dirt to paving brick and gravel roads, decode freeway signs, and make split-second braking and lane-change decisions in a High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane at peak hours. "We believe that this transformation to connected and automated mobility will be a game changer for safety, for efficiency, for energy, and for accessibility," said Peter Sweatman, director of the U-M Mobility Transformation Center. "Our cities will be much better to live in, our suburbs will be much better to live in. These technologies truly open the door to 21st century mobility." MCity is the first major project of a part governmental, academic, and commercial partnership called the University of Michigan Mobility Transformation Center. The initiative is backed by million-dollar investments from companies like Toyota, Nissan, Ford, GM, Honda, State Farm, Verizon, and Xerox, who will no doubt be affected should driverless cars go mainstream. The testing center is is also tinkering with vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) connectivity to investigate whether it aids individual vehicles in making better decisions. The university aims to eventually deploy 9,000 connected vehicles across the greater Ann Arbor area.
Real-life SimCity in New Mexico to become testing ground for new technologies that will power smart cities
A simulation video game can become a powerful innovation lab for new urban technologies, where researchers can test-drive every outlandish “what-if?” in a controlled environment. The Center for Innovation, Technology and Evaluation is launching a full-scale SimCity—a small, fully functioning ghost town equipped with the technology touted by futurists as the next generation of smart cities. Resembling a modest American town with a population of 35,000 spread over 15 miles, the virtual metropolis is sited on a desolate stretch of land in southern New Mexico. Set to be wired with mock-up utilities and telecommunications systems as realistically as possible, the quintessentially mediocre town will even have a gas station, big box store, and a simulated interstate highway alongside its tall office buildings, parks, houses and churches. The town will also be sectioned into urban, rural and suburban zones. From nuclear war to natural disasters to a stock market crash or a triple whammy of all three, the ho-hum hypothetical town will soon play host to driverless cars and packages delivered by drones, alternative energy power generation and never-before-tested public monitoring, security and computer systems. The goal of CITE is to provide the opportunity to test large-scale technology experimentations in real-world conditions “without anyone getting hurt,” said Bob Brumley, managing director of Pegasus Global Holdings, the Washington state-based technology development firm behind the concept. Brumley estimates that support infrastructure, including electric plants and telecommunications, will take 24 months to create, while the city will be fully built between 2018 and 2020. The uninhabited virtual city affords possibilities to test otherwise non-starter ideas hampered by safety and feasibility concerns in the real world, where human beings are the most fickle of variables. “It will be a true laboratory without complication and safety issues associated with residents. Here you can break things and run into things and get used to how they work before taking them out into the market,” Brumley told Wired. One of numerous experiments he envisions involves deploying a fleet of driverless freight trucks controlled by a centralized wireless network. Testing on a real freeway, on the other hand, would be too hazardous. Other ideas range from simple practicalities—having small drones drop off packages on doorsteps—to cataclysm readiness—simulating, a large-scale, real-time attack on energy, telecommunications and traffic systems, or the effect of a “massive electromagnetic pulse attack on all the integrated circuits in our economy.” Brumley estimates an initial investment of $550–600 million in direct investment, with an estimated total cost of $1 billion over the next five years as the city grows in size and complexity. We can only hope that their servers don’t crash.