Autonomous vehicles in the age of Smart Cities
Paul Doherty, Chairman and CEO of The Digit Group, discusses the innovative public private partnership Intelligent Transit plan for forward-thinking Nashville.
After conducting research and development to discover the best offering for Smart Cities developments, it was found that none of the current worldwide automotive manufacturers meet Smart Cities’ needs. Since the vision for high-performance urban environments was to have the majority of mobility solutions to be public-transportation based, a primary need for a recent project was to purchase a small fleet of electric vehicles (EVs) that can mature into an autonomous vehicle (AV) fleet over time. This initial pilot fleet would be tested in all the traditional safety and security methods for each jurisdiction of planned Smart Cities, leading to a massive implementation of a sustainable, effective, and efficient public transportation system that would be profitable to each urban project from day one.
Smart Cities cannot wait for the world’s automotive industry to change its car-centric mindset to a way of thinking about how an AV Public Transportation System should be implemented and operated as an ecosystem, consisting of:
EV/AV buses: Beautifully designed EV/AV buses in 20-, 12-, and 2-m versions to accommodate the mobility needs of Smart City inhabitants or visitors.
Clean power: Clean power generation, management, and distribution using piezoelectric and biomass, micro-grid neighborhood systems.
LED streetlights: Verizon’s Sensity as the primary guidance system in dense urban environments by using the LED light wave as a 5G wireless backbone for municipal solutions for first responders, transportation, waste management, and free citizen Internet access.
Trusted data: BIM (building information model), a digital 3D model of a building that when imported into a geospatial environment acts as a digital twin, and Blockchain as the primary guidance control system for public transportation, leveraging 3D models in a gaming environment, transmitted through the LED streetlights.
Sustainable economics: An economic model that leverages both QR code technology along with Blockchain methodologies to create a secure and ever-evolving digital currency, leading to untold profits.
- New jobs: Retraining existing employees and creating new, high-paying jobs are with this eco-system implementation.
PAUL DOHERTY is scheduled to continue the dialog at our AVT Connect event on September 26th.
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All successful Smart Cities solutions are based on ecosystems, not a single silver bullet innovation. Weaving these ecosystems into a functional urban environment is the key to successful Smart Cities real-estate developments.
After implementing public transportation ecosystems in projects outside of the U.S., now is the time to implement the first U.S.-based AV public transportation system in Nashville. The U.S. Department of Commerce calls this the “Boomerang Effect,” maturing U.S. innovations overseas and then bringing them back into the U.S. market, ready for use.
The Nashville project is called Intelligent Transit, and it is a public private partnership (PPP) that has captured the imagination of the people of the fast-growing city. During a public referendum in May 2018, a choice was provided to the city’s citizens to choose between a light rail system or the Intelligent Transit solution, the latter winning by a 2-to-1 margin. Armed with this mandate, Intelligent Transit began the journey of delivering the world’s first autonomous public transportation system.
To satisfy U.S. government requirements for safety, a pilot program was implemented for Nashville that tested the private sector’s appetite for an urban mobility solution. The pilot program also needed to satisfy the political, operational, and commercial sector needs in the city. Nashville Metro Councilman Robert Swope suggested a pilot that will provide:
Mass transit and personal transit solutions that are complementary elements rather than separate transportation options;
A transportation plan that is based on regional needs rather than an individual county need;
Equitable and independent mobility by taking into account existing mass transit options and future technologies.
The Intelligent Transit plan encompasses the entire Middle Tennessee region, with 10 counties working together. Plans include 16 regional autonomous vehicle transit centers and 18 municipal transit centers, resulting in trips from Murfreesboro to downtown Nashville in less than 30 min, any time of day. The fleet will consist of:
20-m autonomous electric commuter vehicles—a blend between buses and trains— that will provide 24/7/365 service with 15-min scheduled runs during peak hours in the morning and evening and 1-h service during the remaining parts of the day. These commuter options will run on dedicated autonomous vehicle lanes along the inside medians of freeways. They will begin and end at transit centers.
12-m autonomous electric intracity vehicles will operate within dedicated AV lanes along all major pikes and a number of AV-only roads within the central business district. These vehicles will run on a schedule and will begin and end at bus stops.
2-m personal autonomous electric vehicles will provide last-mile/first-mile options. The fleet will be owned by TDG (The Digit Group) and leased to Nashville’s Metropolitan Transit Authority and Regional Transit Authority.
The master plan includes a move of the existing Music City Central main terminal to the current PCS Metals facility just south of Nissan Stadium. The new Music City Central Terminal will become an iconic destination for Nashville, much like Union Station and Grand Central Terminal, by weaving culture, art, retail, and music into the urban fabric that is uniquely Nashville.
The IT Nashville plan creates a holistic, 100% environmentally clean transit grid. Routes developed in this plan will drastically reduce traffic. The IT Nashville plan also includes wireless, environmentally clean charging solutions to enable the system to run 24/7/365. Vehicles never need to stop to recharge; they dynamically charge as they operate using a WiTricity system.
Ever since London’s Pall Mall became the first street in the world to be illuminated with gaslights in 1807, street lighting has become fundamental to our urban experience. Today, street lighting is once again a focus for urban innovation as lighting networks become a platform for a range of Smart City applications.
Replacing a legacy street lighting system with LEDs can reduce a municipality’s energy bill by half. Integrating those lights with networking and intelligent controls can enable a further 30% in savings—and provide a platform for current and future Smart City applications that can enhance public safety, traffic management, health, comfort, and provide a 5G WiFi signal for these control-management systems. City planners and leaders are embracing smart, connected lighting upgrades—and are confronting an array of connectivity choices that may (or may not) enable the city to achieve its goals. These choices range from low-cost ultra-narrowband options to higher cost, high-capacity broadband.
Nashville’s Intelligent Transit program is ambitious in its scope while audacious in its ambition. A unique combination of political wants is meeting with public needs to create the environment for most of the stakeholders to say “yes.” The technologies and innovations are emerging, which brings a host of challenges and layers of resilient solutions to deliver and operate a world-class system for Nashville and Davidson County, TN. The entire program will not cost the citizens of Nashville one penny as private investment and reallocation of existing budgets meet the financial obligations of the plan. Using a development strategy of having this innovative program be based on a business plan that provides profits each year, Nashville is proving that Smart Cities are not only real, but profitable.