Dozens of companies are rushing headlong into a future where they expect that the more than 270 million registered vehicles in the U.S. will be scrapped and replaced with shared automated vehicles that do everything from get us to work to deliver our pizzas. If the residents of several west coast cities think the scooters littering their sidewalks are a nuisance, wait until everyone sees what happens if automated vehicles are just thrown out into the world without oversight or coordination. In a bid to head off some of the potential problems now, Ford and Pittsburgh are launching the City of Tomorrow Challenge.
Simply sending thousands of automated ride-hailing vehicles onto urban streets without some forethought is likely to be a recipe for disaster both logistically and financially. The goal of the challenge which is being announced by Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and John Kwant, VP of Ford City solutions is to better understand the transportation problems of the city and get input from local stakeholders on how to resolve them.
Over the course of the next eight months, Pittsburgh stakeholders including residents, business and community organizations will have the opportunity to share their local transportation experiences and the impact it has on their daily lives. As the mobility landscape evolves over the coming years, the number of services and options for getting around are likely to increase dramatically.
In order for residents to use these services effectively and get where they need or want to be quickly and cost-effectively, they are going to need new tools to manage all the options. Coordination of services to prevent overwhelming the streets with underutilized vehicles while improving access for riders, cyclists and pedestrians will be crucial.
The goal of the challenge is to find innovative solutions to meet sometimes divergent goals of moving people and goods while at the same time enabling opportunities for service providers. The Challenge website will be available for the community to use to get involved. From July 2 to mid-September, participants can submit ideas that will then get evaluated. The winning ideas will get $100,000 for pilots to be run along with the City, Ford and partners Dell Technologies, AT&T and Microsoft.
Whatever comes out of the Pittsburgh challenge will likely be uniquely suited to the needs of that city. Other urban areas have both common and distinct problems to address based on demographics, climate, geography, current transit options and many other factors. With that in mind, this won’t be the last City of Tomorrow Challenge although Ford isn’t yet saying where future projects will take place. Chances are Miami which is now home to Ford’s biggest real-world test of automated vehicles will probably come soon.
Detroit, where Ford was born and has just recently relocated its electrification and autonomous business team is likely to be another candidate. Detroit in particular has some particularly tough problems to address, especially relative to Miami. With a large geographic area and barely more than a third of peak population in the 1950s, the low density in many sections of the city make it particularly difficult to economically viable transit services. This contributes to the difficulty in getting to work for many residents and contributes to poverty.
With the coming deployment of automated mobility services, every urban area will soon need to examine how it will manage the influx of vehicles and services to best meet the needs of residents. Of course the goal is not just to benefit cities like Pittsburgh, but also Ford and its partners as they search for mobility business models that actually have the potential to be as profitable as selling conventional cars to consumers, something no one has figured out yet.
Published at Tue, 05 Jun 2018 14:33:08 +0000