Oftentimes, I am reminded of one of Arthur C. Clarke’s three laws: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” This is especially true, at least, for the general populace who might not have the most cutting-edge understanding of technology and science — particularly as technology catches up with human vision. It all seems so fantastical.
The most recent story to pop up in my newsfeed was about researchers from the Imperial College London who had developed a genetic technique that could be used to control mosquito populations. Utilizing gene drives to push forward desired pieces of DNA and render female mosquitos sterile, researchers saw a population crash during laboratory testing that took only seven to 11 generations to occur — or approximately a six-month time period. For those who have been to outdoor barbecues or dealt with a mosquito population explosion after a hurricane, this sounds pretty good. Of course, it has a long way to go before stepping outside the walls of a laboratory.
We live in exciting times, and while cities have not been viewed as particularly tech savvy, many are actually proving to be innovators in their own right, often partnering with researchers, universities and companies to bring amazing technologies within city limits. Perhaps most notable is the push toward 5G, which has been trumpeted as the launching point for truly smart cities and the Internet of Things as everything becomes connected.
Connectivity is making major strides, and for the transportation sector, it is in clear view through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Connected Vehicle Pilot Deployment Program, which is taking place in three locations: New York City; Tampa, Fla.; and on a stretch of Interstate 80 in Wyoming. We will be highlighting the Tampa pilot in this issue of The Municipal and what it could mean for the future of transportation, particularly should autonomous and connected intersect.
On another matter related to transportation, Nicholette Carlson will be writing about the partnership between Purdue University and the city of West Lafayette, Ind., to test a new high-tech pothole detection and mapping method, which uses city vehicles and a piece of equipment that just might be in your family room: an Xbox Kinect. The project has had its challenges, but it and the data being gathered are showing promise.
Streets are not the only aspect of cities that are benefitting from the development of certain technologies. Pittsburgh, Pa., a Rust Belt city, has embraced the technological age, welcoming Uber autonomous cars and tech companies like Google to its city limits. It has also championed microgrid technology in a partnership with engineers at the University of Pittsburgh, which will ensure a resilient power grid. Andrew Mentock will be sharing more about these efforts and what they could mean for communities that have higher risks of being impacted by severe weather events like hurricanes.
Another theme covered in this issue will be how cities are positioning themselves to be at the forefront of technological advances or, in some cases, keep pace with them so they are not left behind. The latter is a challenge, to say the least, as advances are coming at a breakneck speed.
I truthfully can’t imagine what innovations will be out in 10 years, let alone in the next 20 years; however, the pilots and tests being conducted at the present are promising remarkable possibilities, particularly when it comes to the city of tomorrow.