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September 24, 2017

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Las Vegas testing smart tech to ‘make life better’

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L.E. Baskow

The nation’s first completely autonomous, fully electric shuttle was deployed in the Innovation District in downtown Las Vegas on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017.

We’re a year into the Innovation District, a testing zone for technologies that could make Las Vegas run more productively. That translates to added conveniences, environmental safeguards and security enhancements, playing off the city’s motto: “Building community to make life better.”

The Las Vegas City Council unanimously passed a resolution last February to establish the district downtown. “If we can build applications that make residents and visitors safe while they’re here enjoying the area, or provide better transportation options, that’s what we want to do,” said Michael Sherwood, director of information technology and innovation for the city.

The district is a proving ground, with tests being run on multiple programs that carry out similar functions. The plan is to use the standouts long-term and on a much larger scale.

GoVegas App

Cameras, sensors and other technologies are collecting data on the Innovation District, and the city of Las Vegas plans to leverage the info for the public’s benefit by launching a mobile app in August.

Called GoVegas, the smartphone resource will allow users to find empty parking spots, discover points of interest and keep track of the Downtown Loop shuttle’s location, among other uses. Those who live and/or work downtown also will be able to schedule services carried out by the city (i.e. cleaning graffiti or fixing broken streetlights) directly through the app.

Numina and Motionloft

• Focus: Traffic and pedestrian/cyclist monitoring

• Goal: Increase flow and curb unsafe incidents

The city is partnering with these firms in the hope of creating a safer, smoother travel environment. Numina’s sensing platform tracks the street flow of all objects to help city planners maximize features for the ways they’re most used. Motionloft’s hardware and software count vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians in real time and analyze behaviors tied to transportation. Both systems reveal areas prone to jaywalking, putting the city in a position to strategically curb unsafe activity.

Hitachi

• Focus: Threat detection

• Goal: Enhance security

Hitachi’s sophisticated optics can be used for traffic management, but in the Innovation District they’ll scan for danger. “The camera can detect if someone leaves a backpack at an intersection, and then can send out a police or fire response,” said Sherwood, adding that the city was finalizing its agreement with Hitachi and should roll out the pilot program in 30 to 60 days. The system also counts parking spaces and tracks vacancies, data that will be used to help motorists find parking through the soon-to-launch GoVegas app.

Cisco

• Focus: Environmental sensing, parking space monitoring, traffic and trash management

• Goals: Various

Cisco’s cloud-based service collects data on traffic and parking and even how full garbage bins are. But its environmental sensing might be most exciting. It monitors idling cars for carbon emissions and can change a light from red to green and make successive lights turn green faster to maximize flow and minimize pollution. “The city of Las Vegas is 100 percent sustainable. All the electricity we consume, we produce,” Sherwood said. “If we lower the carbon footprint in the city, it makes the community better.”

Navya

• Focus: Autonomous public transit

• Goal: Make travel convenient and cost-free

The autonomous shuttle Arma, developed by Paris-based Navya, completed its first stateside road test in Las Vegas in January tied to the Consumer Electronics Show. And it’s set to return to the district in September. This time it will go live in traffic with passengers onboard, in conjunction with the launch of dedicated short-range communications (DSRC). DSRC sends traffic-signal timing data to the shuttle, which adjusts its speed to avoid hitting any red lights. Arma eventually will operate in a loop, starting around the Container Park area on Fremont Street down to the Mob Museum on Stewart Avenue, and rides will be free.

On the wish list: Infrared cameras and sound sensors

• Focus: Detect suspicious heat signatures and sounds

• Goal: Enhance security

Sometime this year, the city hopes to add infrared cameras and sound sensors to the testing zone. If a fire broke out, the cameras would detect the temperature spike and alert emergency dispatch, cutting response time and the chance that flames would spread and cause more damage. And the sensors would pick up sounds such as glass breaking, prompting cameras to view the area so a system monitor could alert authorities if someone were breaking into a vehicle or building.

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