Note: I recently had the opportunity to present a talk to the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) about bringing research and jobs to Irvine involving the development of autonomous vehicle technology. Among those present were representatives of major innovative corporations. I would like to say thank you to Irvine Planning Commissioner Dustin Nirschl for his invaluable help in writing this talk and in bringing AV technology to Irvine.
Here is the text of that talk.
Irvine boasts a long-standing, commitment to planning that has resulted in it’s being viewed as one of the more desirable locations in the nation. The city has been planned under a village community model to ensure that residents enjoy safe, accessible, family-oriented living, with short commutes to local entertainment, dining, shopping, and nearby schools. To complement these village communities, Irvine has consistently worked to develop a robust network of bicycle paths.
Recently, Irvine’s population has surged, and two high-density hubs are nearly built out. Residents still travel to close-proximity, village destinations, but now also frequent the Spectrum and Irvine Business Complex hubs. These high-density hubs draw additional vehicle trips on Irvine roadways because: (1) the hub is too far to make walking/bicycling practical, (2) bicycle/pedestrian paths fail to completely connect community to key locations, or (3) a form of preferred alternative transportation such as shuttle or trolley is unavailable to the commuter. Congestion is compounded because Irvine’s daily population nearly doubles due to the influx of business professionals circulating to the Spectrum and IBC hubs. These issues signal that Irvine has reached a point of maturation where more sophisticated and smarter transportation planning with increased transportation choices for Irvine’s residents and commuters is required.
As a 21st century city, Irvine must shape its transportation initiatives and policy to accommodate its residents both for today and for the future. One especially encouraging option for the future is the use of autonomous vehicles (AVs). AV technology promises efficiency, and sustainability, as well as economic opportunity, improved freedom, and safety for residents.
Irvine is committed to both listening and leading. We recognize that implementing AV technology can only be done with the City fully behind the project. We will need to continually educate residents, and to continue to refine the processes we intend to pursue to integrate AV into the community. For this reason, we are working to re-purpose an abandoned air strip for the establishment of a Center for Excellence conducting AV and other research. The Center for Excellence will house key players like Tesla and other innovative technology companies. City partnerships with these innovative companies can enable necessary testing, while simultaneously demystifying many of the unknowns surrounding AV transportation. Moreover, it will help develop additional partnerships and find ways to overcome infrastructure obstacles and regulatory issues raised by AV transportation to implement AV transportation in the City.
The City also plans to work closely with the University of California Irvine to find ways to bring the UCI Applied Innovation Department, an innovative technology incubator, into the City’s AV effort. This unique department connects the University’s intellectual property and entrepreneurism studies to real world applications. In addition, the City will look to work with UCI Law School’s innovative Technology & Entrepreneurship Competition, which challenges interdisciplinary teams of graduate students from across the University to structure and negotiate a joint development agreement for a new and exciting technology. We believe the Center for Excellence can integrate UCI faculty and students into an unrivaled force for research and real-world technological progress.
In addition, we are channeling Irvine City staff toward opportunities involving zero emissions and green city initiatives. Recently, the VW settlement made available funding for City proposals committed to ZEV infrastructure, public outreach, redevelopment, and green city initiatives. Obtaining extrinsic funding can help boost public participation and political momentum, while minimizing financial risk. These initiatives are established to incentivize political mobility, and to lighten transition burdens.
Policymakers in California and across the country understand that local economies, the environment, and resident health all benefit across individual and collective layers of the community by embracing smart, green innovation, especially in transportation.
As an Irvine City Councilmember, I am grateful for the opportunity to better enable and further this quest. In January, I successfully committed Irvine’s city staff to the exploration and implementation of advanced transportation methods and infrastructure.
I believe that our city, our businesses, and our people can become more connected. AV transportation modes can connect village communities and travelers by acting as a first/last mile solution to business, entertainment, and transportation hubs.
We look forward to a greener, smarter future, but understand we have work to do right now to make that future possible.