- San Jose, CA is launching an innovation zone where companies can test new technologies and services, Vice Mayor Chappie Jones announced at an event last week.
- Amazon Web Services, Siemens and Verizon are said to be early collaborators on the project. Bird also plans to test technology in the zone that will keep scooters off sidewalks, San Jose Spotlight reported.
- This is the city's third innovation zone project in the last six years, the Silicon Valley Business Journal reported. In 2014, it launched the Transportation Innovation Zone in North San Jose, and after that a similar transit program opened to the entire city. The previous innovation zones were both unsuccessful, according to the Journal.
The city's previous attempts at creating innovation zones reportedly did not gain enough support and fizzled out. But with partnerships announced from big companies this time around, the third innovation zone holds promise for gaining more traction.
The city's first two attempts were transportation-focused initiatives. The North San Jose project boasted its "multi-mile network of streets, signals, and infrastructure as a platform for technology innovators" with more than 670 streetlights and standard transit infrastructure. It was created to be a laboratory for the likes of traffic sensors, streetlight technologies, autonomous vehicles (AVs), connected vehicles and automated traffic enforcement systems.
The new innovation zone is not explicitly labeled as a transportation-focused effort. But mobility company Bird is launching a scooter technology program, and other partners are working on transportation-centric initiatives in different locations.
One goal listed in the San Jose Smart City Vision is to "[f]ully develop the city’s transportation innovation zone to test new products and services, such as autonomous vehicles, that will dramatically shape transportation in the future and mitigate traffic congestion." But not labeling the new project as a transportation effort has the potential to draw in a broader range of innovators. Getting companies on board early with a publicly-announced commitment could pave the way for greater long-term innovation zone success.
San Jose is situated in the heart of Silicon Valley and is no stranger to innovation efforts. Just last month, Mayor Sam Liccardo announced the third Unleash Your Geek challenge; the city offers startups $100,000 in seed funding to help solve community problems like public safety, equitable housing and climate action. Some of the technological challenges include developing drones for fire department responses and automated language translation for city services.
Innovating in an equitable manner is also a city goal. Last fall, San Jose began accepting applications for $1 million worth of community grants to help bridge the digital divide by increasing internet skills and access for all residents. The San Jose Mayor's Office of Technology and Innovation has also provided 4,000 high schoolers with internet-connected devices and secured $24 million for the initial digital inclusion fund.