Autonomous Vehicles, New Mobility & the Built Environment Internet of Everything Smart Cities Wireless

Innovation Around the Peachtree Corner

With autonomous vehicles of all types and a communications-to-everything infrastructure, Peachtree Corners, Georgia is a vision of the mobility and smart community future. An integral part of this relatively new Georgia community is a city-owned lab, the Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners. Approximately, 8,000 people work and 1,000 people live in the 500-acre boundaries of the Curiosity Lab, which is part of the larger 17 square-mile community of 45,000 residents and 45,000 jobs outside of Atlanta.

What makes it unique is that it is a public-private partnership which traverses public spaces and public roads. The city has created a welcoming environment for testing with its Curiosity Lab:

  • A Sprint/T-Mobile 5G network (free of charge for companies testing their equipment)
  • The city infrastructure includes DSRC roadside units, WiFi and, intelligent traffic cameras
  • The smart city ecosystem/infrastructure is free to use
  • Peachtree Corners does not require companies to sign over intellectual property rights. Proprietary data stays with the company
  • In what may be the first in the world, Lloyds of London has provided general liability insurance for both driven and driverless traffic for the city streets
  • Partners only have to deal with one entity for deploying, testing, and developing IoT technologies, which allows for fast deployments.

Partners include Local Motors (Olli), Georgia Tech, Cisco, and Hargray Communications.

Peachtree Corners City Manager Brian Johnson characterizes this 1-year-old innovation zone as a catalyst for economic development. They have already seen a return on their $5M investment as two companies have relocated their respective headquarters to Peachtree Corners.

In the above interview, we speak to Brandon Branham who is the CTO for this innovative initiative. Highlights of the interview are below (click on a timecode to open a new window).

Interview Highlights: #

  • 00:47 – Branham describes Peachtree Corners, which was incorporated in 2012 and has a zero millage rate (property tax). It has the Technology Park Atlanta which featured famous tenants, such as Scientific Atlanta (Cisco), Hayes (modems), and famous inventions, such as the color printer.
  • 04:55 – The idea of decoupling parking from development is considered. They proactively decided to build a real-world, test lab in the public domain and saw this as an economic development catalyst.
  • 07:24 – Curiosity Lab includes a 3-mile autonomous vehicle testing facility, infrastructure for IoT/Smart City testing, and a 25,000 square foot hub.
  • 09:51Dr. Kornhauser would be proud, as they have created a welcoming environment and they have been told that they move at the “speed of a start-up”
  • 10:17 – They have worked with Lloyds of London to provide “lab insurance.”
  • 12:30 – it has been well received by the people who are living and working in the Curiosity Lab
  • 14:07 – Their $5M investment is paying off, as they have had two companies, Brightree and ASHRAE, locate their respective headquarters in Peachtree Corners.
  • 16:00 – People are using Local Motor’s Olli to traverse the campus. Olli shares a lane with bikes and interacts with 6,000 to 7,000 cars and 32 intersection points. This is the first time that Olli has traversed curved roads. The Autumn leaves covered the stripes, presenting a challenge for Olli. Olli had never seen a 13% grade, which looked like a solid object to Olli’s Lidar.
  • 16:36 – Could we possibly see an autonomous vehicle brewpub?
  • 19:05 – Branham reports that there haven’t been any close calls between Olli and pedestrians or vehicles. There have been some interesting interactions between cars and Olli. For instance, people in vehicles would slow down to watch Olli, which would cause Olli to slow down and eventually stop.
  • 20:33 – The 5G network is supplied by Sprint/T-Mobile and is using existing cell towers.
  • 22:01 – Peachtree Corners has Dedicated Short-Range Communications Roadside Units for Vehicle to Infrastructure and enhanced WiFi.
  • 22:54 – Hargray is the backbone fiber operator connecting the various wireless and IoT devices through a gig circuit that is supplied through a city-owned conduit.
  • 25:07 – Bosch has recently installed three cameras at a new signalized intersection to bring in analytics to improve signal timing. He talks about the challenge of recognizing different objects, such as a scooter that is operating without a rider. Bosch supplied the equipment because they wanted to test their new technology in the real-world.
  • 30:05 – Branham indicates they have streamlined the process of working with a municipal entity by setting up a non-profit called Curiosity Lab to operate the facility.
  • 31:43 – Privacy is a concern and their policy does not allow facial recognition. He explains that they are detecting objects and not individuals. He indicates that communicating this message to the community has been an important initiative.
  • 33:18 – Peachtree Corners is one of the first locations to actively test micromobility that combines e-scooters (Go X) with remote teleoperation (Tortoise) that allows repositioning of scooters.
  • 37:40 – Branham sees opportunity in being able to bring together real-time data from the many IoT devices and to visualize and act on it via a single interface. Cybersecurity is another area that will require additional effort and will become even more critical as IoT becomes embedded in a city’s infrastructure. To this last point, Branham reports that Peachtree Corners and the U.S. Secret Service are working together and will host summits on securing IoT ecosystems/smart cities.

Author Ken Pyle, Managing Editor

By Ken Pyle, Managing Editor

Ken Pyle is Marketing Director for the Broadband Forum. The mission of this 25+-year-old non-profit “is to unlock the potential for new markets and profitable revenue growth by leveraging new technologies and standards in the home, intelligent small business, and multi-user infrastructure of the broadband network.”

He is also co-founder of Viodi, LLC and Managing Editor of the Viodi View, a publication focused on the rural broadband ecosystem, autonomous vehicles, and electric aviation. He has edited and produced numerous multimedia projects for NTCA, US Telecom and Viodi. Pyle is the producer of Viodi’s Local Content Workshop, the Video Production Crash Course at NAB, as well as ViodiTV. He has been intimately involved in Viodi’s consulting projects and has created processes for clients to use for their PPV and VOD operations, as well authored reports on the independent telco market.

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