Technology is constantly advancing, which means our lives and world are constantly changing. Look up any topic of progress, you’re likely to find plenty of, “but is this really a good thing?” articles mixed in with the excitement. Should robots be security guards? Should cars drive themselves? What about the internet? Won’t someone please think of the children!
This is certainly true as we look at how the cities we live in are changing or will change over the next decade. It’s exciting and intimidating and mysterious all at once. And certainly, it’s easy to feel like cities rapidly changing is a new phenomenon. But advancements have always changed culture and therefore, changed the very fabric of the cities we lived in. Cars and airplanes changed the world. The industrial revolution changed the world. Trains, printing presses, the cotton gin — technology has, historically, shifted the way we live.
These days, we buzz about smart cities. A smart city, as defined by the International Data Corporation (IDC), is a city that incorporates “the use of smart initiatives combined to leverage technology investments across an entire city, with common platforms increasing efficiency, data being shared across systems, and IT investments tied to smart missions.” Countries around the world are racing to implement smart technologies in their cities. According to the IDC, the United States spent about 22 billion on smart technology in 2018. China, nearly $21 billion.
Projects like the Google’s Sidewalk Labs Quayside neighborhood in Toronto (which is being described as the “world’s first neighborhood built from the internet up”) are getting a lot of attention for being on the forefront of what’s coming. And while there are concerns about what all this will mean for the people living there, there’s also plenty of buzz over the technology that could be implemented.
Here are some of the coolest tech innovations in development for our future cities.
Flying cars for work commutes.
In 2017, Uber announced they would be testing a pilot aerial taxi service in Dallas, Dubai, and Los Angeles and had signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA to do so. Uber Air, they say, could be available to mass amounts of customers as early as 2023.
Initially, this would be less like The Jetsons, a flying car in every garage scenario, and more like a combo of public transport and ride-sharing. Air vehicles would have pickup and drop-off points, and you’d book the closest pickup point to you. But it’s easy to imagine how more and more pick up points could eventually be available until you could get pretty close to being picked up and dropped off very close to where you want to go, by a flying vehicle. We could be looking at roads that are less trafficked — with more space for pedestrians and bikers. While we fly to work
Streets that can transform into a pickup basketball court when traffic is light.
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#Behindthescenes installing the new hexagonal street paving system at 📍307 Lake Shore Blvd E! See it in-person on Saturday March 2nd from 3-7pm during Open Sidewalk: Winter Warmer (RSVP link in bio). ❄️ The pavers' permeability, heating, lighting and modularity adapt to community needs and minimize road work disruptions. 🚧
Design firm, Carlo Ratti Associati , is currently developing more flexible street space for Sidewalk Labs’ Quayside project that will be able to change seamlessly to suit residents’ needs. They envision streets that could go from say, three lanes in heavy traffic times, to one or two, with the remaining lanes converted to walk paths and community space.
To do this, hexagonal modular pavers are being developed that would move easily without disrupting the flow of traffic. So they may be used for cars to drive on during rush hour, but then, moved to make way for a sidewalk or playground. And they will incorporate other elements like barriers that would section off park space or traffic lights that could transform into basketball hoops — turning a road into a place to grab a pickup basketball game on off hours.
This is a fascinating mission that will keep unused space from sitting, well, unused.