The Race to Build the Future

 In Future of Infrastructure, Self-Driving Cars, The New American City

There’s a virtual race on to see which American city will be the first to officially roll out a driverless vehicle on public roads. Among the contenders so far: Las Vegas, Nevada and Arlington, Texas.

Las Vegas was quick out the blocks on January 11 with its testing of an electric self-driving shuttle. Shuttle maker Navya, logistics provider Keolis and the City of Las Vegas teamed up for a ten-day trial along the iconic Fremont Street between Las Vegas Boulevard and Eighth Street. According to Quartz, it was the first time a self-driving bus transported passengers along public roads in the US.

Three weeks later, city officials in Arlington signaled their intentions. They took a spin in a similar vehicle – a 12-passenger shuttle without a steering wheel or brake pedals. Members of the public also got the chance to take a short ride around the Arlington Convention Center. This demonstration was part of a road trip organized by the Alliance for Transportation Innovation, a group that’s pushing the benefits of autonomous cars.

City-building as we enter the autonomous vehicles era will be a major feature of CityAge: The New American City in Washington DC this year.

Both cities are keen to move beyond the testing phase as officials believe these vehicles could solve many transit problems. Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman told The Verge she hoped to have a fleet of Arma vehicles in use by Summer or early Fall. Her Arlington counterpart Jeff Williams told the Dallas Observer driverless cars were a cheaper and safer option and he expected he expected the technology to be the “wave of the future”.

He’s probably right. Several years ago the idea of a self-driving vehicles would’ve raised eyebrows but now it’s just a matter of how soon cities will be building out their fleets. The race is on; let’s see who get there first.


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