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The Race to Code the Curb

Everyone—from ride-hailing cars to delivery trucks to bikes and scooters—wants a piece of the curb. How can smart cities map and manage this precious resource?
The humble curb is increasingly contested space.
The humble curb is increasingly contested space.Mike Blake/Reuters

The curb is hot. No longer just a home for parked cars and cigarette butts, this is where the action is in the 21st century city. It’s where electric scooters and bikes congregate, where delivery drivers drop off Amazon boxes, where Uber and Lyft cars scoop riders. Someday, it may be where driverless cars await their human cargo. Accordingly, this increasingly contested space has become a focus of serious attention from some of the world’s leading technology companies.

Today, a startup is announcing an open-access platform that maps points of interest where the sidewalk meets the street. Coord, a spinoff of “smart city” developer Sidewalk Labs, launched “Open Curbs,” which pins the locations of wheelchair cuts, fire hydrants, bus stops, and other physical assets that define the curb to digital maps, available to anyone who’s interested in using them.