Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Opening Thoughts for the Smart Cities Week - Silicon Valley Conference (09-10 May)

Today’s Smart Cities Week sessions promise to be incredibly educational and thought-provoking, as the conference agenda is packed with robust plenarys and informational meetings.  TransportiCA's focus in reporting on the conference will be on sustainable transportation and resiliency.  While we are encouraged by so many deliberations and thought leaders being involved in these discussions, TransportiCA seeks to examine three aspects, in particular–social equity, environmental impact and privacy of transport in Smart Cities.

Autonomous vehicles, car-sharing, veicle-to-vehicle ("V2V") infrastructure, and the like, are all great for reducing traffic fatalities and easing congestion; that potential, and reality, we do not deny.  (Minus, of course, autonomous vehicles running red lights, putting pedestrians in danger.)  However, more fundamental is the approach of whether or not we will see an absolute reduction in associated GHG emissions, and overall vehicle-miles traveled ("VMT").  As well, whether or not this promising technology will be available to EVERYONE in the environments in which they are implemented.

Further, how will everyone be able to pay for these services and opportunities?  Will implementation efforts include the traditionally “unbanked” low-income transit riders and those marginalized from modern technology?  Will there be an effort to at least integrate payment and fare systems onto a regional smart card, or allow for some access a universal fare card?  How does transit play into the proliferation of these smart technologies in, mainly, urban environments?  Will we see a new level of competition for transport resources among public and private entities, or will this lead to a systemic detente, potentially stifling innovation in both sectors?


Lastly, of great concern is also the issue of privacy.  While attending last year's ITS America conference in San Jose, we were utterly amazed at the far-reaching acceptance that. with regards to privacy protection, or lack thereof, in the words of one tech exec, "that ship has sailed."  While we stand behind the promise of a safer transportation system through Smart Cities innovation, the idea that we check our privacy at the door if participating in these new technologies is...frankly, repulsive.  No one should be worried about whether or not their Personally Identifying Information ("PII") will be shared with other parties for commercial, or any other non-safety interests.

We look forward to you joining our reporting today, and below are the sessions TransportiCA will cover.  The full program is available here.

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