LA CoMotion 2018 – A Deep Dive Into the Future of Mobility Pt. 3 – Real Estate

Quick Reads

Envision Solar’s Desmond Wheatley on Mobile Power Grids & Real Estate
Louis Alban on Redesigning Public Transit Spaces for Future Mobility
Cal Trans Tackles Expanding Commute Distances by Shrinking Commute Times

The CEO of Envision Solar, Desmond Wheatley, believes today’s parking spaces are nothing but cost centers — wasted real estate after your park a car on them. However, parking places are potential real estate for electric charging and even advertising. “By far the greatest part of our focus, is the rapidly growing electrical vehicle charging market”, Wheatley says.

However, the actual charging business for electric vehicles (EVs) as a business isn’t terribly attractive. But the demand is clearly there. To him, this mismatch means that the value people give to EV charging isn’t matched by a business and monetization model that works.

Enter ad-supported EV charging. “We also focus on outdoor advertising and energy security”, he says. “Those might sound like strange combination. But, in fact, it turns out if you’re really good at converting sunlight and storing it, you can do all three quite well. And we use the outdoor advertising chiefly to fund the deployment of infrastructure for the other two”.

We already do a variant of ad-supported networking with Wi-Fi. There could be charging areas for EVs based on a Starbucks type of access model. You come to a specific store and charge the car for free. There’s another EV model that will have you pay direct for better energy access, maybe a premium for direct current charging which is faster. Or you might find something like Envision Solar where advertising supports the provision of a service or infrastructure that helps pay for a service.

So fast forward to this past November 2017. Outfront Media cut a deal with Envision Solar to market and sell the naming rights for Envision’s network of EV charging stations throughout San Diego. Basically, when you pull up your EV to one of these parking spaces that charge your vehicle, you’ll be greeted with free energy plus a word from our sponsors.

Louis Alban is the EVP of Connecthings, a company that aims to transform classic urban points of access like bus stops into smart, connected physical points that interact with people’s smartphones. “The idea is really to push this ecosystem of services, transforming public spaces into other services that concern any entrepreneur or any companies that have mobile users”, he says.

Connecthings operates across more than 60 cities and in 7 countries across a range of potential urban services that tie together the physical and digital worlds. The company worked with the city of Austin, Texas to connect its bus stops with Bluetooth enabled beacons that allow blind people to be guided to the bus stop via their smartphone, which also gives the audio schedule of upcoming buses.

Connecthings partnered with the operator and manager of Austin’s Metro Bus Service along with Blind Square, which is the world’s most popular GPS-based application for the blind or visually impaired. Through the app, blind or visually impaired riders get real time bus schedule and service alert information automatically as they approach a physical bus stop. Blind Square directs the user to the stop and also gives the rider the precise information they need as they exit the vehicle.

Obviously, there’s an important public accessibility issue in enabling blind or visually impaired city dwellers. But here’s the point. Once the bus stop actually knows what time it is, or who is arriving, and what they might logically need next, a back-end service can understand the immediate context with that data. “So let’s say if it’s raining and the bus is 20min late and it’s late night”, Louis says. “Maybe the taxi application will send you a notification telling you a taxi can come pick you up in 2min. So it’s providing you a solution”.

According to Michelle Boehm, the Southern California Regional Director of California’s high-speed rail authority, the ability to travel over 300 kilometers per hour in safety, comfort and at an affordable cost really changes the opportunity landscape for people living in the state. “Right now, you can spend an hour traveling twenty miles or twenty five miles in are highly urban areas”, she says. “And if you introduce a system where if you invest an hour or two hours of your time you’re able to travel two hundred or four hundred miles that is a huge change and really opens up the entire state of California to the entire population and all of our visitors in a way that they don’t have access to it right now”.

The California high-speed rail system will enable people to travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles in under three hours. The system will extend eventually to Sacramento and San Diego, totaling 800 miles across more than 20 stations. Granted there’s some irony in observing California, the originator of modern car culture, become the most active high-speed rail builders in the United States. But in many ways it’s a forced move.

California’s population is projected to grow to more than 50 million people by 2060, up from 39 million people in 2018. Already, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose comprise 3 out of the top 5 most gridlocked cities in the United States, something that costs the state over $20 billion every year in time and wasted fuel caused by congestion. And so, high-speed rail makes a lot of sense.

Michelle Boehm believes that mobility mindshift might start as a decision about employment. But it won’t stop there she says, “By definition, as people integrate new capabilities for getting around, the economic and social world in which mobility innovation is born will not be the same world as mobility innovation goes mainstream”.

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