The Future of Transportation: Eight Steps to Achieve the Smart City Vision

Posted on 14th February 2020


Alexis Serfaty
Policy Director, Asia & US

Convening key international, state and local technology and civic leaders across multiple industries, the 4th annual Smart Cities International Symposium & Expo on 24 January explored key challenges and opportunities facing the evolution toward a 21st century “Smart City”. Private and public sector delegates from around the world, including Access Partnership, discussed how to ensure a fair tech regulatory landscape critical to smart mobility, including 5G connectivity, Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and autonomous vehicles.

Urbanization & the Future of Mobility

Today, traditional transportation systems are being disrupted by new modes of connectivity, electrification, and evolving consumer preferences around how to live. In parallel, it is estimated that global population growth from now until 2030 will be absorbed entirely by cities – about 1.1 billion new urbanites over the next ten years.  Amidst this backdrop, the global smart cities market is expected to reach nearly 240 billion dollars by 2025. New solutions are urgently needed to manage the scarce resources that will be impacted by this trend, as well as to operate new and regenerated urban spaces. New generations of sensor networks, Big Data analytics, and IoT applications are being deployed to meet these requirements, though many challenges remain. As municipal governments around the world begin formulating their Smart City strategies – now is the time for companies to engage and strive to be at the forefront of this trend.

The “Smart City” is perceived as the Wild West, meaning urban planners, civic leaders, and corporations need to proceed thoughtfully and judiciously to best determine what is realistic and what is not. At Access Partnership we are endeavouring to drive effective strategies and best practices for achieving the promise of the “Smart City” vision – including to promote growth in the shared economy and e-commerce, and advances in connectivity and automation to support more intelligent mobility systems of the future.

Among the actions that policy-makers should take today include:

Develop a clear “Smart City” vision to guide the municipality’s digital development

Upgrading a municipality to a “Smart City” can yield considerable benefits, but as with any complex endeavour, having a clear vision of the desired outcome(s) will increase the chances of success. Promoting digital solutions simply to acquire the “Smart City” label will not lead to optimal results. City officials should work with stakeholders to agree on a vision that takes the unique qualities and needs of their jurisdiction into account, and this vision should guide policy-makers’ actions.

Promote open-source platforms to benefit the development of autonomous vehicles technology

Autonomous vehicles developers continue to encounter difficulties when testing; in particular, they lack enough data to effectively train vehicles how to respond to conditions across a multitude of real-life scenarios, such as bad weather or reckless drivers. By open-sourcing their software, companies can pool their resources, including data sets, to more quickly test AV systems and potentially accelerate time to market.

Regularly consult with industry stakeholders to ensure policies attract investment and support business growth

Collaboration with industry is critical when formulating new policies, as “Smart City” technologies and services are rapidly evolving. Ill-conceived and poorly drafted regulations can have unintended consequences or even the opposite effect of what was intended. Policy-makers should consult with the private sector when formulating new rules and regulations to ensure they support the rollout and adoption of the technologies that will characterise the “Smart City” experience, including autonomous vehicles.

Promote industry-led standards and best practices while adhering to the principle of “technology neutrality”

Standards enable interoperability, which reduces business costs and supports the development of a diverse and competitive commercial ecosystem. Policy-makers should encourage the private sector to lead the development of standards while supporting their uptake among target sectors, and they should adopt a “technology-neutral” approach that does not favour one technology over another. Such an approach will drive competition and support the development of a robust commercial ecosystem.

Adopt procurement policies that foster public-private partnerships at the local level

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are an effective vehicle through which to obtain private sector expertise and funding for “Smart City” projects. By adopting procurement policies that foster PPPs, policy-makers can raise funds for projects that they might not have been able to raise alone, and they can benefit from a company’s knowledge, experience and resources during implementation.

Invest in next-generation broadband network infrastructure to ensure ubiquitous, reliable connectivity

Broadband connectivity is the backbone of the “Smart City”. New technologies, such as autonomous vehicles and the IoT, are made possible in large part by advances in the affordability, ubiquity and speed of broadband connections. To promote the development and adoption of these and other “Smart City” technologies, policy-makers should invest in next-generation broadband network infrastructure.

Engage community stakeholders to secure local buy-in and ensure the project’s results meet citizens’ needs

A variety of local stakeholders will be impacted by the adoption of “Smart City” technologies, most prominently the citizens who live in the city and fund local projects with their taxes. Policy-makers should educate citizens on the benefits of proposed projects and solicit their input to secure their approval and ensure the project ultimately meets their needs.

Cultivate trust in new systems through compliance with national privacy and security rules

Digital connectivity drives “Smart City” development, and it also gives rise to new privacy and security considerations. Without the proper measures in place, people and objects connected digitally can be vulnerable to cyberattacks. Digital platforms that collect personal data risk infringing on peoples’ privacy rights. Policy-makers must work with industry to ensure that the privacy and security risks of new “Smart City” systems are minimised by encouraging compliance with national privacy and security rules. This will build trust with the local communities that use the systems and smooth their path to adoption.

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