Last week, FordHub played host to a panel featuring Techstars, Gehl Institute, and Dash discussing the city of tomorrow.
As part of an ongoing events series at FordHub, a community-oriented experience studio in The Oculus in downtown New York City, we sat in on an informative panel discussing the city of the future. The FordHub has been a rapidly shifting place: last time we dropped in, it was for a taping of a podcast with MouthMedia’s “Travel is your business“. Since then, the whole space has been reimagined; with a new Ford EcoSport taking center stage as well as a wall of support for cancer survivors and research. The Hub has become more of a space for entrepreneurs to share ideas and get feedback; a unique environment that NYC was needing.
For this evening event, guests were able to listen to Anna Muessig, Urban Planner, Project Manager and Urban Researcher, Gehl, Clem Cazalot of tech incubator Techstars (co-host for the event), as well as CEO and co-founder Jaymn Elis of Dash, a data-collection platform, along with discussion moderator Jenna Blaha from Elle. Though the focus was on mobility, the panel quickly shifted its sights toward the importance of data in creating a future for humans in the city. Techstars is actively working with Ford in Detroit to develop a space for mobility-focused innovation. Two of Techstars’ startups have partnered with Ford from the mobility class of 2017: Cycuro and Gridwise, which empowers ride-share drivers with data on when and where people need transportation.
By the way, the Mobility Demo Day ended up being a massive success: 1200+ attendees: more than 300 investors, and 113 different automotive OEMs, suppliers, transportation companies, and leading mobility venture funds. In other words: the largest event of its kind; ever.
Gehl Institute focuses on studying people in the city and see how they interact and exist. One of the most interesting lines came from Gehl Institute, who said: a car-centric city wouldn’t have the idea like “jaywalking”, the act of crossing a street outside of a marked sidewalk. She’s right, and it instantly transformed how I think about the world we live in now.
Consider the idea of “bad traffic.” We think about traffic as bad when the streets are in full use or at capacity, technically the most ideal for those who designed them. However, traffic is bad when contextual variables shift. If you’re used to a particular route, you know traffic will be bad at certain hours. But is this actually regarded as “bad traffic” or just normal for the day?” Traffic is a deeply individual experience. The bottom line is this: these ideas will be reconsidered in the city of tomorrow as mobility becomes less about personal convenience (where the idea of ‘bad traffic’ comes in; it’s bad when we’re delayed) and more about communal good and improved efficiency.
Data can aid in this. For Dash, data became the company’s sole focus. Instead of pushing hardware, Dash found cities and roads can be improved by getting real-world data to make it happen. Data in the right hands can be powerfully transformative. “Data protocol” should aid in this. It will make it easier to receive and distribute information regarding human interaction in cities. All panelists agreed that people are the center of the design process, or should be.
So with all this data, where are things going? All three panelist offered ideas: We’re definitely going to see new types of sensors and retrofitting of systems. There’s no question that building upon existing technologies is easier to stomach than trying to push brand new systems. In the same vein, everyone will be collecting data on existing infrastructure and systems. Of course, automation will become increasingly important. It used to be about big data but now its about predicting micro-trends. In brief, now is a moment for classifying data and refining it to be useful in computers. Dash has a great position here, it has automated the data-collection process and is collecting it from systems that create data already. The info is aggregated and anonymized and distributed to enterprise interests.
Here’s to an innovative and exacting future! It’s important that Ford maintains its role as a facilitator for the discussion as we move toward the city of the future. The only way it will be executed effectively is with the support of an enthusiastic and accessible community. Ford is anticipating two more events in the next year, so be on the look out for that! Learn more at Ford.com and read our past coverage of the city of tomorrow here.