There are, of course, challenges to the rise of the smart city.
One is political. Pilot programs are frequently necessary to establishing the potential of smart city initiatives and to adapting them to each environment. Yet a pilot program by its nature will cover only a small area and impact a tiny fraction of the population. Until these programs scale up, they may create tensions, pitting “have nots" against tech-entitled “haves."
Another complication is that private capital and industry often spearhead investment in smart city projects. There exists no hard and fast method of providing private investors with exits that rewards their entrepreneurship while also placing the technology in question under civil authority over the long term.
And that's not even to mention the question of the competence of that civil authority in the first place.
Sharing information early and often can help smooth over these divides, and fortunately smart transportation infrastructure is well-equipped to provide just that. Publicizing evidence of early-stage success, such as research demonstrating that even a small number of autonomous vehicles can have a big impact on traffic efficiency, could help warm residents to the impact of pilot projects. Miami-Dade's City of Tomorrow Challenge project also provides a template for frequent, constant citizen engagement.
Civic leaders shouldn't be afraid to play up the opportunities smart infrastructure provides, nor to back up their claims with hard, transparent data. Early indications are that citizens are responsive to what smart infrastructure can do for them, and are even willing to change their habits to make the most of those possibilities. People are open to changing their utility consumption habits, for example, if they receive detailed digital insights about the reduction opportunities their local governments offer.
Smart transportation infrastructure gives leaderships the chance to enhance quality of life and boost economic potential through mobility, and to bring citizens into the discussion around these issues. In this discussion, government officials and citizens will have more exciting issues to talk about than potholes, bad transit, and the other problems that have long defined conversations between urbanites and their leaders—although, in putting smart infrastructure to work, cities will better manage these ancient city problems, too.