A host of one of the tech world’s tentpole events, CES 2018, Las Vegas has a lot more going for it than entertainment and ample hotel rooms. When it comes to technology, the city has quietly become an early test site for a handful of urban mobility concepts, from running pilots of autonomous shuttles to testing hyperloop technology in the nearby desert.
But, as an early accident involving the city’s autonomous shuttle underscored, much of the hype, keynotes, and promo videos talking up the future of urban transportation still have a long way to go before truly shifting how we travel and navigate our cities.
As Curbed zeroes in on smart home innovations unveiled during CES 2018 (and The Verge covers just about everything of note at the annual tech event), we’re also highlighting urban mobility technology showcased in Vegas. Here are some of the next-generation innovations and inventions that companies are pushing as potential improvements to the way we get around our cities. We’ll be updating this story throughout the week with new vehicles, prototypes, and announcements.
Autonomous taxis at your service
Billed as a smart mobility solution to the challenge of rapid urbanization, the Autonom Cab is an 100 percent electric, autonomous vehicle. Specifically developed by the French mobility company Navya for urban transportation and set to be the first production autonomous cabs on the market, the Autonom was unveiled to the press this afternoon during trial runs at Container Park. The Autonom trial isn’t the only option for autonomous rides in Vegas this week. Lyft, in partnership with Aptiv, a British tech company, will offer users autonomous cab rides in a BMW 540i, bookable via the standard Lyft app.
Vehicle-to-infrastructure trial debuts in Vegas
Further cementing its reputation as a city getting comfortable with autonomous vehicle technology, Vegas is installing a new piece of roadside infrastructure that may usher in more effective, efficient roadways. Vegas will install what’s called vehicle-to-infrastructure, or V2I, technology, at select intersections on Casino Center Boulevard between Bonneville and Clark avenues, part of a six-month trial with industrial giant Siemens.
The idea is to bring smart city tech to traffic exchanges. When lights and signals communicate with cars, making them more situationally aware, they can help improve the flow of traffic. Drivers can also connect to this web of sensors via a smartphone app, which can provide warnings about pedestrians in the road, or if a car is going the wrong way down a one-way street. The trial will also test vehicle-to-vehicle, or V2V tech, considered a foundation for future autonomous driving.
In related news, the CEO of Ford, which has been pushing its role as a mobility service as well as an automaker, spoke about the company’s plans to install communications technology from Qualcomm in its vehicles to create a platform for autonomous cars. CEO Jim Hackett said that this would allow companies to plug into the platform for driving and delivery services.
Are foldable scooter in our future?
That’s the bet being made by Ujet, a company that just unveiled a new foldable electric scooter it’s billing as a urban mobility solution, complete with a battery that can be plugged and charged via standard outlet, onboard-computer, and an app for notifications and geolocation parking. With so much onboard tech, it’s a big step up from the wave of electric bikes. It’s also another attempt to push portable, electric scooters as a greener, more convenient way to get around.
Virgin Hyperloop One isn’t close to running ... but it does have an app!
CES visitors may not be able to ride it, but they can (pretend to) book it. As Curbed’s Alissa Walker explains, Virgin Hyperloop One and HERE Technologies created a mobile app for the futuristic tubular transport system, drawing real-time arrival information from various transit agencies and transportation modes to put together custom itineraries, for “passengers to start to visualize the hyperloop experience.”
Toyota’s e-Palettes, a solution to a future fraught with freight traffic
Envisioned as an autonomous storage locker/store on wheels, this new driverless delivery concept by the Japanese automaker has a long way to go before its anywhere near as ubiquitous as the humble shipping palette. But despite the oddness of having Pizza Hut delivered by a robotic rectangle on wheels—the fast food chain, as well as Amazon and Uber, were said to be interested in the idea—the concept does attempt to address a serious issue in urban transportation. E-commerce means freight traffic is skyrocketing, and few city planners have truly addressed the issue. Perhaps some sort of automation or driverless delivery service can help ferry around our cardboard boxes without adding to congestion.