The Smart Cities Council Australia New Zealand are back with another video, part of their 20 Minute Cities series. This video is a little different, Adam and Chris are chatting about some of the most interesting developments in the week of Smart Cities and future-focused urban planning (the week ending March 2nd 2018). Also, it’s only 10 minutes.
Among other things, they talk about the readiness of our cities to handle self-driving cars. From registration and licensing, to clearways and loading zones, it seems we may have a long way to go. Getting autonomous vehicles on our roads isn’t just a technological problem, there are social and regulatory hurdles as well!
They also talk about the trend of universities engaging with communities to do Smart City development, rather than having it come from government and cities. It’s a trend that’s also seen in the private sector, from the Sidewalk Toronto project from Google, or the somewhat more dubious project from Bill Gates in Arizona.
Adam: Well, first episode of ten minute cities.
Chris: Ten minutes, we’re going to squeeze a lot in, it’s getting shorter.
Adam: It’s been a big week this week, what are you going to start with?
Chris: I’m on an Uber exploration at the moment, so I’ve been reading about some Uber impacts. Changes to our cities, changes to public transport patronage. Probably for me the big one this week was an article from the CEO of Woolworths, who’s flagged Uber Easts as the number 1 threat to the Woolworths business, which I find fascinating.
Adam: Why is it a threat?
Chris: I think they’re seeing a drop in the fast food part of the grocery shop. People are going and buying their fast foods through Uber rather than that high turnover convenience stuff from Woolworths. I think it’s fascinating that they think it’s a problem.
Adam: Wow. Canary in the coal mine right. That’s fascinating.
Chris: What other things though. For me, a lot on 5G, and cities and senses. You sent an article around this week which was the five year shoebox audit of cities, which I found pretty fascinating.
Adam: I picked up yesterday, or the day before, Logan City Council have released their city future strategy, which is always a good sign. We’re starting to see a mobilisation within local government, of getting more future focused and future ready. I think it’s interesting that cities like Logan that are still young very diverse, physically a lot of build-up existing neighbourhoods, but equally a lot of room to play with. You know big developments like Yarraville by Lendlease. They get to really use the city as a sandbox. So it’ll be interesting to see, post-strategy, what implementation looks like, but I hear good things.
Chris: In our world Brisbane City Council has put out probably the biggest public engagement on the future of Brisbane, inviting the public to comment on what Brisbane should look like. And I think it’s interesting, the conversation is around trade-offs. It’s a very interesting word, and they’re openly saying to the public ‘we need to think about the trade-offs’. Affordability versus Green Space, Green Space versus more housing, working close to our jobs. And they built a really…I’ve seen almost a gamified version for people to muck around with in a SimCity kind of way – but I think they’re doing a really good job of taking consultation to the people and I really like that word ‘trade-off’.
Adam: So you’ve got a certain amount here, where do you put it before it pushes and pulls in other directions.
Chris: It’s like 1,300 people a week?
Adam: A month, 1,300 people a month. Yeah we’ve still got some growth haven’t we? So I had an old colleague who now works for Georgia Tech over in Atlanta. And fascinating there, where the university has put up funds for neighbourhoods and communities to deploy Smart City tech and data solutions. So not necessarily the city or the government doing it, but now academic institutions, because they want to get their hands dirty in understanding how this works. What it means, getting researchers embedded into the Smart Cities movement. So that was a nice article I read the other day, coming out of there.
Chris: I think the other thing for us, coming out of this week, we hosted a sort of round table lunch yesterday on Autonomous Vehicles [self-driving cars]. It was pretty eye-opening for me and a few people around that table, just to see where everyone is at, where they’re not, their readiness. I think the key take-away message was that we have a long way to go before we even understand how to move our cities closer to being AV ready, let alone figuring our what the benefits or impacts to our cities are gonna be. It’s an interesting space to watch.
Adam: I still feel like we’re – pardon the pun – but I still feel like we’re at two speeds. We’ve got autonomous shuttle showcases going on right now, Darwin had one for months and months. They’re physically there in a controlled environment in our face right now. But you think about all the pieces that need to be put into place, just from physically is the city ready, you think to yourself ‘oh my god we’re 30 years away at least’. So it’s like this two speed thing that messes with my head. I suppose what it means above all is you’ve got to engage, and you’ve got yo be ready.
Chris: Well I think that’s the big job isn’t it. Ultimately you’ve got state governments, through their transport departments looking at AVs but it’s probably more from a policy perspective of how to register them and how to monitor them. But then there are things for the local governments like where are the cars going to reside, thinking about what they need to do to adapt their cities. From zones where they can go, can’t go, drop-offs, can I close roads, can I close some lanes, can I return stuff, who’s paying for it, what’re the upsides to the city? So there are a thousand little micro-discussions to be had.
Adam: I suppose just in terms of pickiing up some interesting reading material, just thie morning I had come through on email the outcomes of a policy workshpo that was undertaken by the American Planning Association in Washington DC last October. We’ll get that up on LinkedIn and circulate that. But really refreshing to see the planning profession start to embed themselves in the digital interfaces that are coming through Autonomous Vehicles and other sort of platforms.
Chris: I think the think for our Australian compatriots to get on board with the American side of things, we’d love to see more planners to play around and think of this kind of thing.
Adam: I mean, the back to the future street project – it was a great project to bring together the landscape architects as a minimum, and ourseves and hte internet of things alliance. So looking forward to see more future street demo projects this year, and of course that’s what our trip to Portland next week is like, to run the Future Street masterclass.
Chris: For me the exciting thing about being asked to go to Portland is actually the oppourtunity to deconstruct the street, and teach people as a movement why this is an important piece of thinking. The actual demonstration project I think is actually immaterial, it’s actually the thinking that went on to then realise what we need to do to implement what we now recognise as best practice.
No one would argue about greening our streets, no one should really argue about smart streets. We probably know jointly what we need to change the rules that allow us to build the streets of today which are probably the total opposite. So when we put the two together, we know what we should do, we’ve got a set of rules that say what we must do, and then it’s the bit in the middle. And that’s where I think future Street will come into its own. Whether we get to turn it into a playbook, or a guidebook. Yes it’s about how to do a demonstration project, but fundamentally it’s a set of principals that a good street should attain. That’s the exciting bit, to be able to teach people that, and bring that back to Australia, I’m looking forward to delivering that masterclass in partnership with AILA in a few locations.
Adam: So 10 minutes cities next week, we’ll do a take from Portland somewhere, share what we hopefully enjoy at the urbanism next conference, and we’ll ick up there.
Chris: Well beyond what we’re gonna do, looking at the program there are fascinating little topics. I’m looking forward to being able to report back on what we learnt as well.