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Transportation

Los Angeles Is Ready for the Next Mobility Revolution

The city was shaped by the streetcar and was an early adopter of the automobile. What comes next?
Los Angeles, city of freeways, is on the precipice of a new mass-transit future.
Los Angeles, city of freeways, is on the precipice of a new mass-transit future.Kyle Murfin/LA CoMotion

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.)