For the last decade, the USA has lagged behind Europe regarding the implementation of smart cities. Although many areas of Europe were already suffering from the financial crisis before Covid-19, the continent has weathered many economic crises since World War II, setting up a culture that is more compatible with public-private partnerships.
Whether its internet-connected home devices or broad city upgrades, Europe has proven time after time that it will invest in new technologies and find ways to empower businesses to partner with nation-states for the benefit of all.
But in the age of the Covid-19 outbreak, the USA must consider new technologies and the true implementation of Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) in the form of smart cities to maintain social hygiene and distancing, create new jobs, and ensure the economic vitality of transportation network during health crisis. Unfortunately, Covid-19 is not the first nor the last major outbreak, and there are many lessons to be learned from this crisis that the USA must heed to be prepared for the future.
Take for example tolling booths across the USA, particularly in Maryland, Virginia, and Florida, which have been shut down because operators in a tollbooth can unknowingly contract or spread the virus. As a result, states will miss out on much needed infrastructure funding.
Automatic toll payment machines (ATPMs) could slide right into existing tollbooths and gantries, collecting all forms of payment and protecting employees from being exposed to the elements at hand. Job numbers would remain the same or even increase as ATPMS link to back-office systems and manage customer service centres while needing standard maintenance by employees.
ATPMs are just one example of a product that has become regular in Europe but is still waiting full acceptance in the USA. Although the USA has a long history of technology leadership worldwide, it woefully lags behind Europe relating to smart cities. For the first time, in 2017, the USA made a push toward smart cities with a US$160m commitment to invest in cities nationwide implementing these new technologies. In contrast, Europe has invested over US$18bn in smart cities since 2014.