May 10, 2016

Can self-driving cars run your town’s transit system?

By: Vicki Parsons - IT

DAVID CURRY   May 8, 2016

Babcock Ranch, located eight miles east of Fort Myers, Florida, is a new sustainable smart town currently in development. Kitson & Partners are in charge and earlier this week suggested that autonomous vehicles would be the main mode of public transport.

Similar to NuTonomy’s plans in Singapore, Kitson & Partners wants to have a mobile app for residents that functions similar to Uber, letting them request an autonomous cab at any time. This will, according to Kitson, reduce the amount of traffic on the roads.

“We’re really looking closely at parking, the size of the streets, what ultimately that’s going to look like when you have driverless cars within the community,” said Syd Kitson, chairman and CEO of Kitson and Partners. “It will change the design parameters. As these things become more commonplace, people may eventually turn to just one car because they know they can use an autonomous vehicle. So what do you do with the garage space eventually?”

Tesla’s Powerwall would be a good answer to Kitson’s question, considering solar storage might boost the amount of available energy during the night. The real estate developers are looking into several types of energy storage solutions, to make the 350,000 solar panel investment worthwhile.

Can towns set their own driverless car rules?

Babcock Ranch is not, as far as we can tell, exempt from the transport and driving laws of Florida or federal laws. That might make it hard for the town to embrace driverless cars, at least in the first few years, when they’re not legally allowed on the roads without someone at the helm.

The town is five times the size of Manhattan, so there’s a huge amount of potential for success. It has plans for a wellness center that residents and non-residents can use and a downtown area for businesses to flourish.

Kitson & Partners are not the only company thinking about building sustainable cities, we recently heard that Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs were in talks to start rejuvenation projects in big cities, with a focus on smart and sustainable technology.


((FYI – I forwarded info to the author regarding legislation passed this spring that makes Florida the most autonomous-friendly state in the nation.))