The Road To The Autonomous Age Will Be Paved By Smart Cities

The Road To The Autonomous Age Will Be Paved By Smart Cities

The age of the autonomous vehicle will usher in sweeping changes to transportation, energy consumption, passenger safety and business efficiency. But before autonomous cars can transform modern life, cities will have to transform themselves.

Smart cities will be the linchpins of the autonomous age — deploying the digital infrastructure necessary to connect cars to vital information, reduce traffic congestion and make roads safer.

  Eran Shir, Cofounder and CEO of Nexar

“The cities of the future are going to require intricate and complicated management systems,” said Eran Shir, CEO and cofounder of Tel Aviv based Nexar, which announced today on closing $30 million in series B funding. The company is building a vehicle-to-vehicle network and collect real-time information about road conditions, traffic, infrastructure problems, crashes and road hazards.

Startups like Nexar point to the potential for symbiotic relationships between smart cities and tech companies. “Real-time information is crucial for cities that want to take control of their smart city initiatives, and Nexar has crowdsourced a database of over 100 million driven miles,” Shir said. “By turning that data into insights rapidly, we not only help cities get a better image of what is going on on their streets now, but helps them take a step back and see the big picture, helping municipalities and states better manage infrastructure and traffic, and make roads safer.”

While self-driving cars aren’t yet on the roads, local governments are laying the groundwork for the autonomous era. Information Age noted in August that several cities in the United Kingdom have begun utilizing technology that tracks open parking spots in real-time—no small feat, given that some studies suggest drivers looking for parking are responsible for up to 30% of traffic, as Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins pointed out in a recent Wall Street Journal interview.

Public-private partnerships will prove key in making cities more responsive to their denizens’ needs, experts say. Colin O’Donnell, chief innovation officer at Intersection, an urban tech startup, argues that city officials will need to collaborate with the private sector to respond to resource and physical infrastructure needs, build out a digital infrastructure that adapts to the constant churn of the city, and fosters effective dissemination of information.

One such collaboration is currently underway in the state of Nevada. The Nevada Center for Advanced Mobility recently partnered with Nexar to create the first statewide vehicle-to vehicle network in the United States. Dan Langford, the innovation director for the center was recently quoted as explaining the countless benefits the technology brings to the state. “If we see multiple vehicles taking the same corner too quickly, we can assess whether there’s an engineering issue there or whether we need to modify the speed limit approaching that intersection,” Langford said. “This can help us optimize our traffic systems.”

This new age will affect more than just personal vehicles, of course. Take Optibus, whose cloud-based platform allows mass transportation operators to efficiently allocate resources and manage fleets in real-time, with the aim of optimizing the transit process and cutting back on nettlesome delays and overcrowding. Optibus is working with two public transportation providers in Las Vegas, and in Israel, the Optibus technology generated $3 million in annual savings for the Metronit bus system—enabling the operators to reduce deadhead trips, cut back on duties, and better balance weekly hours.

Amos Haggiag, Cofounder and CEO of Optibus

“Modern cities need modernized mass transportation,” said Optibus CEO and cofounder Amos Haggiag. “Cities that invest in their digital infrastructure will be able to provide the high-quality services necessary to support thriving, 21st-century economies.”

Fresh off a recent $12 million funding round, Optibus plans to build out its platform to support smart cities in their efforts to improve the mass transit experience.

Liad Itzhak, Head of Mobility at HERE

But what’s the most efficient way to get from Point A to Point B? Enter HERE Mobility — a recently-launched venture that aims to provide businesses and consumers with a one-stop, on-demand mobility solution that aggregates a wide variety of options—public transit, car-sharing, taxis, airplanes, and car rentals—on a single platform. “Over the next few years, we’re going to witness a huge shift from automotive to mobility services,” said Liad Itzhak, HERE Mobility’s vice president and head of mobility.

The trajectory of the mobility services industry is nothing short of “crazy,” Itzhak said, citing a McKinsey report that projects that by 2030 mobility will be a trillion-dollar industry. But it’s not exactly surprising.

“The second you educate a market not to have private cars, the rest is logical,” he said. Helsinki, Itzhak noted, has already outlined a goal of eliminating private car ownership by 2025, as the Finnish capital moves to a mobility-focused transportation system, with other cities likely to follow suit. “Smart cities will need a platform, since mobility isn’t their core service,” Itzhak said. “They’ll need the R&D that connects all the different mobility services independently.”

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