Las Vegas, a tech testing ground, nets Smart Cities grant

NAVYA and Keolis, in partnership with the city of Las Vegas, launched the first completely autonomous, fully electric shuttle ever to be deployed on a public roadway in the United States. The shuttle is being launched in the new Innovation District that was recently created by the city of Las Vegas in downtown Las Vegas on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017.

Las Vegas is pushing technology boundaries and netting awards for its smart city initiative downtown.

The Smart Cities Council awarded the city one of five Readiness Challenge Grants last week. The grant provides free products and services worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from the program’s partners, including Qualcomm, Battelle, Synexxus, CompTIA and IES. Additionally, the winners get a year of mentoring and tailored products and services to enhance smart city initiatives.

The council noted Las Vegas being named one of five recipients due to its work on public safety, including traffic and pedestrian safety.

“We’re so pleased to see the strides cities have made since we launched the challenge last year,” said Jennifer James, global director of the Smart Cities Council Readiness Program. “The entrants are knowledgeable and committed, and they have large ambitions. They are moving beyond the ‘pilot phase’ to deploy strategic at scale programs that will generate lasting benefits.”

The Innovation District is an area where the city is actively testing technologies and solutions aimed at making streets safer, reducing congestion, increasing efficiency and providing a cleaner environment, said Michael Sherwood, director of information technologies for Las Vegas. Some of the projects the city is testing downtown are the driverless shuttle, connected traffic lights and infrared camera technology to spot fires among others.

“We are very excited about receiving this grant; it highlights the great leadership and staff within the city of Las Vegas and its commitment to technology and the future,” Sherwood said. “We are building community to make life better for all, residents and tourists alike; programs like this go towards that effort.”

Aside from its current projects, the Innovation District plans to use the grant to focus its attention on social issues like homelessness, Sherwood said.

The grant will draw companies like communications giant Qualcomm and business experts in efficiency and process automation to the city to help establish new technology programs. The council will provide experts from the private, philanthropic, academic and research sectors to help with each city project.

Other entities honored included Birmingham, Ala; Cary, N.C.; Louisville/Jefferson County, Ky.; and the Commonwealth of Virginia.