- The City of Peachtree Corners, GA celebrated the opening of the Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners, a 5G-enabled autonomous mobility and smart city living lab designed to test the next generation of internet of things (IoT) technologies and solutions.
- Set in a 500-acre commercial office park, the site includes a 1.5-mile autonomous vehicle (AV) test track that features curves, a 13% elevation change and shade from tall trees. The park is home to approximately 1,000 people and 7,500 business employees, allowing the technologies to consistently interact with the public.
- The Lab worked with a number of partners, including Georgia Tech and Sprint, to develop the testbed and ensure it met stakeholder requests. Early stage IoT, smart city and mobility startups are welcome to apply for a resident membership at the site to test their innovations. The site also welcomes startups that work in other incubators or accelerator programs to apply as affiliate members.
The site's ribbon cutting — which was done mid-air by a drone — kicked off this week's inaugural Smart City Expo Atlanta event, enabling leaders from around the world to visit the testbed and experience innovations first-hand, such as Local Motors' self-driving shuttle Olli.
A drone-flying ribbon cutting kicked off the celebration of @PtreeCorners new @CuriosityLabPTC, a 1-5-mile real-world testbed for #IoT technologies. Lt. Gov. #GeoffDuncan, other state, county and city leaders were on hand at morning event. pic.twitter.com/yZdjFjVFwh— Peachtree Corners GA (@PtreeCorners) September 11, 2019
While AVs are a central focus for the testbed, the site will welcome all smart city-facing innovations including drones, smart poles, electric vehicle infrastructure and logistics testing. Curiosity Lab Executive Director Betsy Plattenburg said the site is "open to all kinds of things," as long as the technologies meet regulatory and insurance requirements.
Insurance is a unique area the site actually prides itself in. Plattenburg explained to Smart Cities Dive that the Lab purchased a policy specific to the testing environment to reduce risk for the Lab and its members. "Most other test tracks don't have that," she said.
This test track is also unique in that it is 100% funded by the City of Peachtree Corners, a seven-year-old city with a motto that reads, "Innovative and Remarkable."
"They don’t have a lot of legacy expenses and infrastructure, or legacy policy and procedure, or even legacy politicians. Everybody's new," Plattenburg said. "They do operate a lot more like a business and a lot more like a startup, so they're able to move much faster and able to be flexible and very creative in what they do."
The city owns 100% of the roads, rights of way and sidewalks within the test environment, therefore making decisions in the testbed is much simpler than at sites where the roads are owned by multiple jurisdictions, she said.
Plattenburg emphasized that the Lab is not trying to make money off the testbed directly, but instead hopes that making the site "a sandbox where people can come play" will boost the local economy.
"We want the rents in the office park to rise, which they are doing because people want access [to the park]," she said, "We want [members] to come stay at hotels, go out to eat, spend money in the city. In a perfect world, they would say, 'wow, this is cool, we want to rent that office over there for the next three years.'"
Most importantly, Plattenburg and her partners at the Lab want innovators and the general public to have fun and learn. Through a partnership with Georgia Tech — where Plattenburg spent much of her career — the Lab is offering coding and data analytics boot camps to help folks change careers or enhance skill sets in the face of evolving automation.
"As we move from this very small concept into a larger innovation ecosystem, it was a fun way to reach back to a lot of my connections in an innovation world, connect it with what we're doing and say this is something nobody else is doing, let's see how well we can do this and run with it," said Plattenburg. "It’s been fun."