1. Solar panels: The smart city is nothing if not green, and ideally net-zero or net-positive. Photovoltaic panels provide renewable energy, alongside wind turbines and other sources.
2. Trash bins: Fill-level sensors on smart trash and recycling cans transmit information to waste services in order to optimize collection routes.
3. Wi-Fi and 5G: Public Wi-Fi and superfast 5G networks enable connected devices to communicate and transmit data without a hitch.
4. Pavers: Smart pavers are equipped with a data transmitter and generate electricity from the kinetic energy of footsteps. Embedded lights allow road markings to change in a flash.
5. Streetlights: The Swiss army knife of smart city technology, a typical streetlight will incorporate devices such as surveillance cameras, sensors collecting data on traffic patterns, and gunshot detection systems that analyze audio signals to triangulate the location of gunfire and notify law enforcement.
6. Autonomous vehicles: The self-driving vehicle is the sine qua non of the smart city. Though there isn’t anything particularly smart about an urban center jammed with cars—autonomous or not—many smart city projects have been quick to embrace autonomous vehicles. Mass transit, in the form of self-driving buses and shuttles, could help reduce congestion, carbon emissions, and human error–related collisions.
While the technology may seem like a Jetsons-esque fantasy, it is in fact becoming a reality. Since March 2018, commuters in Neuhausen am Rheinfall, Switzerland, have been able to travel on the electric-powered, self-driving Trapizio bus as part of an initiative launched by the Swiss Transit Lab. Last summer, Chinese tech company Baidu announced the production of its 100th 14-person autonomous minibus. (In October, Baidu signed a two-year agreement to test autonomous vehicles for the Ford Motor Co.) Meanwhile, the U.K. is investing approximately $32 million in three trials with the promise of self-driving public transit by 2021. And Austin, Texas, is now home to what is being billed as the nation’s “largest autonomous bus pilot program.” This summer, the city tested six electric 15-passenger buses with plans for a second phase of trials that will include passengers.