Episode Archive

SCP E181 Mobility that Serves Smart Communities, with Courtney Ehrlichman

In this episode, I have a brilliant conversation with Courtney Ehrlichman, the CEO at The Ehrlichman Group & Co-founder of RoadBotics. We recorded this interview in early June 2020. Courtney tells us about her background in urban studies, planning and transport and her passions for community, mobility and solving problems across industries. We talk about the concept of Universal Basic Mobility, and what a Smart Community means to Courtney, and why it’s so important that technology is used as a tool to decrease divides and serve human needs. Courtney and I discuss how data can build wealthier communities and why efficiency is so important both from a local government economic development perspective, and from a citizen user perspective. We have a great chat about autonomous vehicle shuttles, and some of the moral, ethical and labour issues associated with them, as well as the other complex pieces of the mobility conversation, such as urban density, land use, housing affordability, employment options and lower-tech mobility solutions like active transport. Courtney tells us how she sees America embracing Smart Community concepts, the pothole detecting tech startup she co-founded, RoadBotics, and how she works with people. We finish our conversation discussing the emerging trends people aren’t talking about of the food supply chain, and educating citizens on their privacy rights, as well as some of Courtney’s favourite Smart Community resources. As always, we hope you enjoyed listening to this episode as much as we enjoyed making it.

Listen here: 

What we cover in this episode:

  • Courtney’s background in urban studies, planning and transport and her passions for community, mobility and solving problems across industries
  • What sparked Courtney’s interest in Mobility and Smart concepts
  • The concept of Universal Basic Mobility
  • What a Smart Community means to Courtney, and why it’s so important that technology is used as a tool to decrease divides and serve human needs
  • How data can build wealthier, healthier Smart Communities
  • Why efficiency is so important both from a local government economic development perspective, and from a citizen user perspective
  • About some of the Autonomous Vehicle Shuttle projects in the US and the moral, ethical and labour issues associated with them
  • How America is currently embracing the Smart Community concept and how it’s changed throughout COVID
  • Why we need to examine whether we’re looking at high tech solutions to problems that don’t need tech, but just need attention
  • The complex mobility-related conversations around urban density, land use, housing affordability, employment options and lower-tech mobility solutions like active transport
  • About the pothole detecting tech startup Courtney co-founded, RoadBotics, and how she works with people and organisations
  • The importance of including connected vehicles in the Smart Mobility conversation
  • The emerging trends people aren’t talking about of the food supply chain, and educating citizens on their privacy rights
  • Some of Courtney’s favourite Smart Community resources

Quotes:

“Universal basic Mobility is the glue that binds us together. Obviously, we need to exchange goods, we need to exchange our labour, we need to have homes and there’s this tremendous geographic mismatch right now. I mean, even in terms of food, as we’re seeing right now, I actually just came back from the grocery store and there was nothing on the shelves. So I really think that thinking of mobility as the foundation to our communities, to being resilient as a society is actually very crucial.”

“A Smart Community, to me, is a community where everyone can live, work, play, and find their food in a way that they choose. So the streets are designed for [everyone]… and data is exchanged so that community planners and decision makers are making the right decisions, or they have the ability to make decisions faster with more information. And also, I think being Smart includes being more efficient, but not necessarily being high tech.”

“It’s not about me having this great project that’s going to win awards. It’s about having a project or having a transportation system that actually serves people, rather than has this neat tech.”

“Something that you can run into with technology is technologies that are looking for a problem to solve rather than technology that has been developed to solve a problem. And I think that’s just where decision makers might not necessarily understand across the board, what are the capabilities of technology if they’re not trained in those fields, and might end up bringing on technology from a company that isn’t actually serving the people. It’s really a hard nut to crack.”

“There’s a lot of moral, ethical and labour concerns to be thinking about with the AV shuttles that just haven’t been answered yet. It’s still very early on. And that technology is still developing.”

“Taking this moment where our social world has essentially been ripped open, and we are trying to figure out how to re-enter society safely, interacting with each other and all of this money is being thrown around to reboot the economy. So while we’re investing right now, how can we do that in a way that is not only a short term solution, but longer term?”

“The more that we are talking about data and using data then the more privacy needs to be designed in from the very beginning.”

Links

Robotics Institute and the Traffic21 Institute at Carnegie Mellon University

RoadBotics (The pothole detecting startup Courtney cofounded)

Smart City Challenge by the US Department of Transport

AV Shuttle/Van Projects: Linden LEAP by Smart Columbus and The Villages Vans in Florida by Voyage 

Really Brennan’s newsletter 

Autonocast with Alex Roy, Ed Niedermeyer and Kirsten Korosec

StreetsBlog USA

CityLab (formerly by The Atlantic, now by Bloomberg Media)

Transportation Research Board publications

Connect:

Find the full show notes at: www.mysmart.community 

Connect with Courtney via her website, LinkedIn or on Twitter @c_ehrlichman

Connect with me via email: hello@mysmart.community 

Connect with My Smart Community via LinkedIn or Twitter and watch on YouTube

The Smart Community Podcast is produced by Perk Digital.

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