For a few days earlier this month, a stretch of downtown Los Angeles’s Arts District was transformed into a circus of emerging transportation technology, with companies from around the world showcasing their newest and shiniest wares. Cordoned off from the rest of the “Street of the Future” by old-fashioned orange traffic barricades, a box-shaped autonomous shuttle ferried test riders from one end of the makeshift lane to the other, sans driver or steering wheel. A self-rolling tribe of cylindrical little robots intended to act as a “mechanical mules” followed close behind the legs of their designated humans. The city’s mayor posed in a sleek, 3D-printed race car. There were at least three different electric scooter brands on hand.
“My goal—and the goal of this city—[is] to be the transportation technology capital of the world,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in his opening keynote at LA CoMotion, a five-day conference and expo devoted to the future of urban mobility. (CityLab was among the event’s media sponsors.)