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Emerging Transportation Technology Will Connect Southern Nevada

General Manager
Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada
Las Vegas

Great cities realize the importance of transportation in building a strong economy and thriving community. They collaborate on transportation infrastructure and ­technologies to enhance mobility for their residents and visitors.

They plan for growth by making the necessary investments now so they can ensure the efficient movement of people and goods later.

Southern Nevada is no exception. We need to continue to engage, collaborate and invest in our community and our future.

It is projected that by 2025, Clark County will have added 700,000 residents and 10.1 million annual visitors. In addition, numerous plans and projects are underway for new development throughout the valley. In the resort corridor, we have already seen T-Mobile Arena open, and next year it will welcome our first major-league sports team, an NHL hockey team.

We see continued construction of hotel-casinos, and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority will further develop its existing convention facilities. Beyond the resort corridor, Apex Industrial Park is expanding in North Las Vegas, where innovative companies like Faraday Future and Hyperloop will be; UNLV is building a medical school in the Las Vegas medical district; and our community is considering building a 65,000-seat domed football stadium.

The projected population and visitor growth, coupled with these significant projects and continued economic development across our valley, necessitate a more cohesive multimodal transportation network. This network must safely, efficiently and effectively move millions of people and goods throughout our region. Our roads are already congested. Just imagine what they would look like with hundreds of thousands more residents, millions of additional visitors and thousands of new properties, projects and businesses.

At the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC), we are responsible for the region’s transportation planning and funding, public transportation and traffic management. We have spent the past several years forging partnerships and investing time and resources to help ensure we are at the forefront of transportation technology. Our objective remains focused on not just maintaining, but enhancing our infrastructure to accommodate growth.

Transportation technology is the ­cornerstone of the future. It will help pave the way for our community to build a much-needed multimodal network of roads and public transportation.

I sit on the board of the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems and participate on an advisory committee sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation to provide recommendations on research and deployment of autonomous systems throughout the country. Based on discussions with our Nevada partners, colleagues in other Western cities and federal representatives, connected and autonomous vehicles will help transform our urban landscape and create a more modern connected network for drivers, transit riders and freight operators.

A recent report of the Eno Center for Transportation explained that autonomous or connected vehicles have features enabled by sensors, cameras and radar. This allows vehicles to wirelessly exchange data with their surroundings and communicate with other vehicles and roadway infrastructure, including traffic signals. The report indicates that autonomous or connected vehicles have the potential to significantly reduce the number of fatal crashes and injuries, provide critical mobility to the elderly and people with disabilities, enhance effective road capacity, and reduce congestion and fuel consumption.

Some experts predict autonomous and connected vehicles could be ready for public use within 10 years. And if you need further evidence that the technology is coming, according to Steve Hill, executive director of the governor’s Office of Economic Development, many of these companies like Tesla Motors, Faraday Future and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies are testing and producing the technology right here in Nevada.

In fact, Google became the first company to obtain a license and test their vehicles in Nevada. Shortly after, two other companies also were approved to test in Nevada. And most recently Tesla announced it will unveil an autonomous “Tesla Semi” and transit bus in 2017.

At the RTC, we continue to work with government agencies and a host of regional partners to ensure our state continues to be the national leader in the autonomous and connected vehicles space. Advancements we made include Nevada becoming the first state to implement a common sense approach to testing, licensing and regulating autonomous and connected vehicles. We are collaborating with other private- and public-sector organizations to deploy and test technologies in the movement of people in downtown Las Vegas, around the Convention Center and at other major activity centers.

We are working with automakers and equipment vendors to test and evaluate their groundbreaking work that will move people and freight. And this fall we will see firsthand Local Motors, which has a partnership with UNLV, test its autonomous transit shuttle in downtown Las Vegas and at the UNLV campus.

As we continue developing our transportation blueprint, we know that technology will play a significant role in redefining urban planning and mobility in Southern Nevada. Our community is at a crossroads of transportation, urban development and economic growth. It’s a time when technology is shaping our future and rapidly changing the way people and goods move.

Our residents, elected leaders, local governments, businesses and community groups need to continue to work together to advance autonomous and connected vehicle growth. That means evolving and embracing change and innovation, and rallying behind building an economically diverse Nevada that is much safer, smarter and stronger.

This “Commentary” originally appeared in the
Las Vegas Sun. Reprinted with permission.

"Commentary" features points of view from various sources to enhance readers' broad awareness of themes that affect public transportation.
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