Following the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this past January, public transit suddenly became the darling of North American fascination. Why? Smart Cities.
Defined by the global Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the world’s largest technical professional organization for the advancement of technology, a Smart (Sustainable) City is an innovative city that uses information and communication technologies (ICTs) and other means to improve quality of life, efficiency of urban operation and services, and competitiveness, while ensuring that it meets the needs of present and future generations with respect to economic, social, and environmental aspects.
In North America alone, more than 82 percent of people live in urbanized areas, and by 2030 the world is projected to have 41 “mega-cities” with more than 10 million inhabitants. Smart Cities of the future connect business sectors (smart mobility, smart energy, smart buildings, smart retail) with the Internet of Things to provide a seamless consumer experience in our communities. With a very real threat of urbanization choking existing transportation infrastructure, “Smart Mobility” creates safe, clean, efficient and connected multimodal transportation systems – combining mass transit, ridesharing services, biking, and walking. New Flyer is committed to leading collaboration, cooperation, and the technological advancement of Smart Mobility.
As the concept that is driving highly automated, connected, and data-driven communities, “Smart Cities” use sophisticated technology and advanced analytics to help city planners operate cities in a more predictive and increasingly responsive way, working in collaboration with the private sector to operate and maintain city infrastructure that supports an increasingly on-demand lifestyle in urban centers.
At a moment in time where the need for Smart Cities is equal parts opportunity and crisis, the average person has started to grasp just how significantly the daily commute impacts quality of life for most North Americans, and also how increasing traffic congestion and pollution affect the world in which we live. During CES, Smart Mobility, which includes the automation of vehicles and innovation in public transit, came to the forefront of the conversation.
The importance of advanced technology and human ingenuity was echoed by Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, whose address at CES focused on innovation. Secretary Chao reiterated the role autonomous vehicles will play in revolutionizing transportation, and further entrenched the Department of Transportation’s role in cultivating innovation by eliminating obstacles to development and integration of new technology. Subsequently, she announced the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) release of automated vehicle requests for public comment, soliciting input from across the transportation industry to identify barriers to innovation and help shape initiatives.
The announcement marks a clear evolution in the USDOT’s approach to innovation, and underscores the importance in the investment, research, and development of technology in transportation. If America is to execute on the vision and intention for Smart Cities, development of technologically sophisticated transportation is vital. All stakeholders in the transportation industry (and beyond) stand to gain from collaborating on development, and can shape the future of America through investing in autonomous technology, advanced analytics, innovation, and related connectivity and infrastructure development.
In October 2017, New Flyer of America celebrated the grand opening of the Vehicle Innovation Center (VIC) at its Anniston facility in Alabama. As the first and only innovation lab of its kind, the VIC is dedicated to advancing bus and coach technology in North America to serve the Smart Cities of the future. Through ongoing delivery of interactive experiences and collaboration with industry leaders, the VIC features a world-class manufacturing lab, exhibit space, and training areas to:
• Explore and advance bus and coach technology through sustainable research and development, fresh innovation, progressive manufacturing, and bold thinking
• Foster dialogue through discussion, education, and training on the latest zero-emission, connected and autonomous driving vehicle technologies
• Engage learning through current and interactive exhibits, simulation and hands-on experiences, and observations
• Generate energy and commitment to clean air quality, safety, and economic benefits for people, communities, and business
• Harness the positive influence of collaboration, environmental stewardship, and social change to advance smart mobility solutions
The VIC is a hub for public private collaboration and exploration, with respect to zero-emission and autonomous vehicle technologies that can and will power our society forward. Indeed, 2018 will illustrate the convergence of multiple sectors to innovate and power the next several decades of public transit. Ultimately, we can expect emergence of unlikely partnerships to power and support an increasing on-demand lifestyle of North Americans. These partnerships, an approach coined “co-opetition” in light of competitive advantage, will further dynamics already in motion by the likes of Ford, Lyft, and Dominoes, who have come together to offer Smart Mobility solutions on demand via autonomous vehicles.
While public transit often comes second to headlines about the latest in Apple technologies, Smart Cities have never been a more newsworthy topic. North American brand movements like Amazon’s HQ2 [venue] search catapulted the need for Smart Cities, as its 2017 contest sparked public interest (and subsequent city mania) for the “perfect city” to play host to its new headquarters. With over 238 places bidding for HQ2, the Wall Street Journal reported bold promises by cities, tackling everything from traffic to housing in hopes of luring Amazon’s 50,000 jobs and minimum $5 billion investment in infrastructure development. But, it cannot operate in a city anything less than smart, and the pressure is on for all urban centers to step up their game.
New Flyer’s Vehicle Innovation Center is a venue where collaboration amongst industry stakeholders will drive bus and coach technology towards our collective vision of Smart Mobility within our communities. As a pioneer of industry “firsts” on many occasions over recent decades, New Flyer has no intention of slowing down as the Smart City of the future becomes reality.
Lindy Norris serves as director of marketing communications at New Flyer Industries. Visit www.newflyer.com for more information.