Senator Catherine Cortez Masto hopes to put Nevada on the path to the future.
Last week, Cortez Masto visited Motional, a company that already has forward-thinking operations in Las Vegas where it has teamed up with Lyft to provide self-driving vehicle transportation.
The joint effort has provided over 100,000 trips and there have been no at-fault accidents during those trips and those the company operates outside of the Lyft service.
A safety driver is in place for these rides right now, but in 2023 Motional plans to offer driverless rides.
After taking a ride in a self-driving BMW, Cortez Masto said it was the type of deal she had in mind when she lobbied for several funding mechanisms related to the bipartisan infrastructure bill approved by the Senate.
“It’s around smart communities and smart vehicles a lot of the technology that you have here and that connectivity to smart communities and autonomous vehicles, to electric vehicles,” Cortez Masto said. “The bipartite infrastructure package supports resources, investments in this new technology. To me, this is important for Nevada.
Las Vegas’ potential for smart city initiatives is promising. In addition to Motional, the city of Las Vegas has its Innovation District downtown and piloted an autonomous shuttle service between 2017-18.
The city is also working with the Regional Transportation Commission on a project dubbed GoMed that provides a similar autonomous shuttle service, transporting passengers from the Bonneville transit center to the medical district. It also has smart bus stops and crosswalks.
“We have so much entrepreneurship and innovation that you see, this is an example,” Cortez Masto said. “It really creates jobs. I mean, they hired 250 to 300 people here in Nevada. It’s good for our economy and it really helps us prepare for the 21st century, which is this innovation economy.
Cortez Masto noted three key elements of the infrastructure bill that could benefit Nevada:
The Moving First Act would provide $ 500 million in grants for innovative transportation projects that help solve local challenges. Las Vegas has several companies that could qualify for funding, including Motional.
The STAT would re-authorize and enhance the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart Transportation Advisory Group, develop a smart community resource center for communities, and expand coordination of new and emerging transportation technologies.
The Professional Services Transportation Opportunities Act would create a public service campaign promoting high-paying middle-class jobs in the transportation industries.
“I think it’s important that these investments come here in Nevada, to prepare us for our future,” Cortez Masto said.
The senator added that smart city initiatives could play a role in the state’s constant effort to diversify the economy.
With the various transportation projects involving new technology already underway in the Las Vegas Valley, Cortez Masto believes the future is already here. The funding that may soon be available with the infrastructure bill will help advance these causes.
“Our Regional Transport Commission is already examining this, it is already partnering with these entrepreneurs,” she said. “They are already thinking about our transit system which we need for the future. This is what we want. … How can we use this new technology and adapt it to the transportation needs we need in our community? It’s good for our community because it gives people the mobility they want and the flexibility to move around.