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Building a Connected City From the Ground Up

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“What they got wrong was any sort of sense of streetscape,” said Mr. Rose, who has visited Songdo. “There’s no sense of patina, no authentic street life. It’s super sterile. It was built as this fantasy of the future, but it’s a place that humans don’t want to occupy.” The integration of technology into urban planning has prompted questions about how the data being collected will be used. In Toronto, for example, Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Alphabet, the parent company of Google, attracted considerable publicity when it was selected last year to help create a smart connected neighborhood of sorts in a waterfront district called Quayside. Some local officials and critics are questioning whether the deal gives too much authority to Sidewalk Labs without putting limitations on Google’s collection and use of data.

The need for greater regulation of driverless vehicles has also come up for debate after the death last month of a woman who was struck by one of Uber’s self-driving cars in Tempe, Ariz.

“Very few local governments have thought through the long list of public- and private-sector values and concerns that should be deployed to constrain” the use of autonomous cars, as well as the technologies being used to monitor city streets, said Susan Crawford, a Harvard Law School professor. “Once you’ve given a developer license to deploy total surveillance, with no public limitations, you’re done.”

LStar has considerable leeway to test technologies at Union Point. The developer is purposely holding on to its roads, rather than asking for them to be made public ways, to maintain flexibility in testing autonomous vehicles, lighting and other technologies, said Robert Luongo, Weymouth’s director of planning and community development.

“If these were public ways, we might not be able to give them that flexibility,” he said.

Mr. Corkum said retaining ownership of the roads would enable them to play with designs for amenities like drop-off areas for driverless shuttles and heated sidewalks. “It’s better for us to stay in this testing phase until we have good workable solutions,” he said.

State oversight of autonomous vehicles applies only once there is public use, he said. Even then, the rules are vague. Ryan Chin, the chief executive of Optimus Ride, said his company would adhere to the same high-level safety standards and testing protocols at Union Point that it followed for testing driverless cars in Boston’s Seaport neighborhood.

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