Yesterday morning, two autonomous drones carried a bright red ribbon along the street at Technology Park Atlanta, an office park in Peachtree Corners, Georgia. The ribbon was carefully lowered for the opening ceremony of Curiosity Lab, a 5G-enabled autonomous vehicle test track and smart city ‘living laboratory.’
“The environment we’re creating is an economic and development initiative investment by the city of Peachtree Corners with the sole goal of bringing companies into Technology Park,” Curiosity Lab Executive Director Betsy Plattenburg tells Hypepotamus.
In addition to the city, Georgia Tech and Sprint invested close to $5 million into the lab’s infrastructure.
“We’re able to offer all of this infrastructure to companies that want to test — from early-stage startups that would never be able to access these resources to Fortune 500 companies,” says Plattenburg.
Autonomous vehicle testing is typically done on closed tracks — controlled, private, and therefore, predictable.
The 1.5 mile test environment along Technology Park will allow companies to test in real-life conditions.
Plattenburg shares that the test track allows testing of conditions like tree shade, seasonal variability, weather patterns, elevation change, and road curves.
“Those things are unique for a test environment, but affect the computer vision of vehicles. The city also owns one-hundred percent of the road, the sidewalk, and the right-of-way so there’s only one entity to ask for permission to test.”
The office park, created by the city’s founder Paul Duke, dates back to the sixties. The high technology campus was intended to encourage Georgia Tech graduates to stay in the area.
Today, 7,500 employees work in Technology Park.
The Paul Duke STEM High School opened in 2018 to offer local students a STEM-focused curriculum. About 50 of those students were attendance at Wednesday’s ribbon cutting, with four managing the ribbon-carrying drones.
There were also several startups on-site demonstrating tech-enabled mobility solutions. California-based startup Tortoise, which offers a way to reposition misplaced e-scooters and e-bikes autonomously, has plans to eventually launch in Atlanta, according to Plattenburg.
Local Motors’ Ollie shuttle, an autonomous 12-passenger electric shuttle, is currently mapping the track at Technology Park to explore using it as a last-mile initiative. They will launch on the track to the public soon.
So excited to have our STEM partners participate RT @Paul_Duke_STEM: @Paul_Duke_STEM #UAV Team is ready to participate in the @CuriosityLabPTC ribbon cutting. @SmartCityexpo @GwinnettSchools @sprint pic.twitter.com/21vul2RhMJ
— Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners (@CuriosityLabPTC) September 11, 2019
These are just a few of the companies they’ve been speaking with, says Plattenburg.
“We’ve had interest from around the world, and we’re open to any company that wants to come and test here and has the regulatory requirements for their technology.”
Curiosity Lab’s network operations are located inside the Prototype Prime startup incubator in Technology Park. From there, the team oversees the test track environment around the office park. “We’ve rebranded 25,000 square feet of innovation space, including the incubator. We’ll have corporate innovation teams in there as well,” says Plattenburg.
Corporates have already begun to demonstrate interest in partnering with Curiosity Lab. This week, Delta announced a partnership, and accompanying funding, to use Georgia Tech and Curiosity Lab to research autonomous vehicle technology use cases. For example, an AV could help passengers make tight flight connections or deliver delayed baggage.
The opening ceremony in Peachtree Corners kicked off Smart City Expo Atlanta.