CES Insider: Will Air Taxis Over Dallas Be the Next Wave of Smart Cities? This Panel Thinks So.

Published on January 9, 2020

Live from CES 2020 in Las Vegas on Tuesday, experts gathered for a panel discussion on Exploring the DFW Smart City Ecosystem, a vision for the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex as a leader in smart city infrastructure. As a Dallas native, I was proud to sit in and watch this fruitful discussion over what’s next for my hometown of the Big D!

There are two kinds of American cities. First, the pre-automobile ones, which were built in the pattern of dense, walkable, old-world European cities. These are mostly on the Eastern Seaboard, with a few exceptions out west like San Francisco and Portland.

Second, come the cities that were designed for cars, not people. These are unwalkable, sprawling kingdoms of loosely knit suburbs, low-rise shopping centers, broad swaths of parking lot and wide ribbons of interstate.

The way we traverse these two kinds of cities couldn’t be more different. Consequently, they continue to develop differently. One of the challenges of the current era is how to bring comprehensive, efficient transportation and smart livability to both kinds of American cities equally.

Subways are great for New York, but they may not be the solution for Colorado Springs. Bike lanes, well, that’s a whole other thing.

And what about future facing technologies, like air taxis? How can the technology sector come together with city planners, including elected officials and real estate developers, to realize the vision of a smart city?

There’s perhaps no better urban area for this kind of discussion than Dallas-Fort Worth, one of the biggest metroplexes in the car-centric American west.

How the Smart-City Ecosystem Would Work

Moderated by award-winning Dallas journalist Juan Garcia, Editor-in-Chief of Digital Trends en Español, the panel consisted of: Scott Drennan, VP of Innovation at helicopter technology pioneers Bell; Russell Laughlin, EVP of ‘forward-thinking’ development company Hillwood; Paul Puopolo, Vice President of Innovation at Dallas Fort Worth Airport; Betsy Price, Mayor of Fort Worth since 2011; and Jeff Williams, Mayor of Arlington.

Panelists held a candid discussion about the need for the private sector, represented by Hillwood and Bell, to work with the public sector, represented by the mayors Price and Williams, in order to better realize a truly smart city. And bringing the public and private together was DFW’s VP of innovation.

There is perhaps no clearer overlap of public and private interests than airports, and DFW is the second largest in the nation, bigger than the island of Manhattan, and the fourth largest on Earth in terms of aircraft movement. It has its own zip code, its own police, and its own fire protection.

Here, public interests like tourism and mass transportation intersect with business interests like commercial airlines, retail, and taxi services, to create a microcosm of the metropolis itself.

These influential stakeholders in the DFW community brought together their ideas and pursuits surrounding smart cities and how they can be a part of Bell’s vision of bringing viable urban air mobility to DFW commuters and beyond.

Basically, they’re proposing drone-like helicopters as the next Uber.

The primary components of a smart city are technology and transportation,” says Garcia. “The city has to move people, as well as goods, and it has to use cutting edge technology for the greatest efficiency, cleanliness and comfort.

Bell’s vision of personal air taxis would permanently change the meaning of commuting for the 6.8 million citizens of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, and position it as a leader in transportation technology.

Dallas is a great city for this kind of experiment. We have a lot of air space, an excellent tech sector, and the community is eager for future-facing transportation solutions,” Garcia added.

Will the vision of Dallas as a pioneering smart city take off? Garcia says it seems possible, but depends on the cooperation of city officials and tech companies.

Andrew "Drew" Rossow is a former contract editor at Grit Daily.

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