Our cars may not be flying — yet — but we truly are on the verge of the stuff seen in science fiction: self-driving cars, augmented reality, solar-powered “smart” roads, etc. However, as technology continues by leaps and bounds, its advances leave cities in an interesting predicament: How do they adapt to the steady stream of changes and how do they get in place the infrastructure these new advances need?
Self-driving cars — much like the emergence of automobiles themselves in the early 1900s — have the potential to rock city infrastructure, particularly when you factor in ride-sharing. MIT SENSEable City Laboratory found self-driving cars and ridesharing could potentially reduce cars on the roadway by 80 percent, meaning less parking space might be necessary in the city of the — maybe not so distant — future. In fact, an IHS Automotive study, called “Emerging Technologies: Autonomous Cars—Not If, But When,” forecasted “total worldwide sales of self-driving cars will grow from nearly 230 thousand in 2025 to 11.8 million in 2035 — 7 million SDCs with both driver control and autonomous control and 4.8 million that have only autonomous control. In all, there should be nearly 54 million self-driving cars in use globally by 2035.”
Already this year, we have seen the first Uber self-driving fleet roll out in Pittsburgh, Pa., complete with human “supervision” in the driver’s seat. As the USA Today reported in its test drive, the driver still has to loosely grip the steering wheel at all times and be prepared to take over should the car reach a situation too complex for its algorithms.
And while self-driving cars are grabbing headlines, there are plenty of other technologies that are going to impact infrastructure.
Missouri Department of Transportation is just one of the many street departments across our nation embracing some of these new technologies with its Road to Tomorrow initiative, which includes exploring the “Internet of Things,” smart pavement, truck platooning, solar roadways and more. In fact, its pilot project with solar roadways will be coming soon to the Historic Route 66 Welcome Center at Conway, Mo. And in the spirit of the era, MoDOT is preparing the first DOT crowdfunding effort in regards to that project. Undoubtedly many eyes will be on MoDOT to see how the pilot project unfolds.
In this particular issue, writer John David Thacker shares ways cities are already moving to adapt to the demands of technology while harnessing the Internet of Things to adjust public transportation and recommend where businesses should locate based on where people are. In particular, he highlights the efforts of two Smart Cities — Kansas City, Mo., and Dubuque, Iowa — to stand out.
While technology will turn infrastructure on its head within the next decade or so, it will also be making our lives easier by streamlining tasks … however, not without some caveats as seen through Denise Fedorow’s article on ransomware attacks on SLED, or State and Local Government Education, networks. Undoubtedly, as progress hammers on there will be more than a few wrinkles to be ironed out along the way. Self-driving cars definitely have a few, which will need to be worked out prior to that 2035 prediction.
We are definitely living in interesting times, and it will be fascinating where we stand in 10 years, especially when looking at how quickly the internet, computers and smartphones have forever changed our lives. Personally, I am still waiting with bated breath for the creation of a functional teleporter a la “Star Trek” — and those flying cars might not be so bad either. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!