The race to code the curb (CityLab)

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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 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.

The hope is that this tool can help curb-curious local officials, mobility companies, and researchers can reach a common understanding of the physical environment they’re all operating in. That way, rules can be equitably enforced and companies can more easily comply with them. Right now, neighborhoods in Santa Monica, Denver, Paris, Milan, LA, and San Francisco have been mapped; other cities, including San Diego, are on the way.

“One of the reasons cities and fleets want to work with us is that they frankly struggle to get that information,” Stephen Smyth, the CEO of Coord, told CityLab. “We want to be the broadcast channel for all the regulations on using this particular land.”

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Written by Long Branch Mike