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Curb Management just got a big Opensource Boost

Space in cities is limited. The change happening in mobility, from ride-hailing, to MaaS, to coming self-driving cars puts extra pressure on an essential part of that limited resource: curbs. The Open Mobility Foundation has just announced the formation of a Curb Management Working Group, composed of both the private and public sector. The aim of the group is the development of API standards for curb management, which has seen growing demand, especially during the Covid pandemic. [1]

As a part of this project, four key cities were chosen as pilot cities: Aspen, Nashville, Omaha, and West Palm Beach. The working group includes 25 cities across the US and Canada as well as essential private sector actors, such as Coord, the startup backed by Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs, and the current leader in curb management platform as well as Ford AV. By working together on an open standard the hope is that a data-driven approach will be able to more flexibly and effectively address curb use and, for example, “create more loading space where it's most needed, or manage demand through pricing and time limits.”[1] These approaches are not new, as we already have loading zones and parking rates that vary across cities. This approach is to bring that into the digital space and allow for a standard way that the many actors in logistics, mobility, and other services can coordinate the use of curb space. 

The city-led initiative is not universally seen as a good thing and has its roots in a long legal battle between the City of Los Angeles and Uber. In 2018 LA’s Department of Transportation began collecting real-time information about where Uber e-scooters were in the city, which Uber described as an invasion of their customer’s privacy. The war over data appears to be taking a new direction in this open-source movement.

 

Personal comment

The struggle over who owns, can access, and controls data is essential. The opensource nature of this working group suggests that this may be taking that conflict in a good direction that can standardize API’s for data sharing in curb management while at the same time protecting privacy. A note of caution should be noted, however, in that at least three Alphabet entities are connected, with Waymo, Coord, and Sidewalk Labs in the background. Hopefully, issues of privacy and surveillance will be addressed and the balance of public and private sector interests will lead to standards that can underpin the potentially significant social impact of a rapidly evolving transportation sector. It’s worth mentioning that the Drive Sweden-associated project ODIN also has a seat at the OMF table.

 

Written by Joshua Bronson, RISE Mobility & Systems.

 

Sources

1. 2020-12-11 Open Mobility Foundation launches digital kerb standards group