The opening of Peachtree Corners’ 5G-enabled Curiosity Lab and autonomous vehicle test track will help put Georgia on the map as a technology hub, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said.
Duncan was one of the dignitaries who attended the ribbon cutting for the lab and test track, which was Wednesday morning in connection with the opening of the Smart City Expo, which is in Atlanta. Peachtree Corners and its partners, including Spring and Georgia Power, developed Curiosity Lab as a place to test smart city innovations, particularly those that deal with transportation.
The opening of the lab and the test track were greeted with excitement by government and business leaders, but the lieutenant governor pointed to them as examples of what the state is capable of in terms of technology innovation.
“I want Georgia to be the technology capital of the east coast,” Duncan said during the lab’s opening ceremony. “I don’t want it to just be a marketing flyer. I want to earn it and projects like this allow us to walk all over this country, if not the world, and show that we’re earning the title of the technology capital of the east coast.”
The event at Peachtree Corners City Hall Wednesday featured several pieces of interactive new technology, many of which were demonstration pieces for companies participating in the expo.
But for Peachtree Corners officials, the opening of Curiosity Lab and the opportunity to promote its long-planned autonomous vehicle test track was a major highlight of the day.
Peachtree Corners Mayor Mike Mason compared it to the work Paul Duke did decades ago to set up Technology Park, where Curiosity Lab is located, with the intent of creating a technology hub for metro Atlanta.
“I would like to think Paul Duke would be proud of us for trying to recapture that spirit of innovation that he started here back in the (1970s and 1980s),” Mason said after the ribbon cutting. “I would like to think our city, our council recreated that innovation hub environment so that people can now do the same thing over.
“Someone asked me one time ‘Are you trying to be Paul Duke?’, and I said ‘No, but all of us together, the (City Council) together, can fulfill his idea.’”
In the spirit of highlighting technology and innovation, the city decided to go a little non-traditional with the ribbon cutting. Rather than have a ribbon set up between two poles on the ground for the ceremony, students from Paul Duke STEM High School flew it in during the event with a pair of drones.
The test track, which is still undergoing some finishing touches, will be located in dedicated lanes on Technology Parkway in front of and near City Hall.
The lab will be open to companies looking to take their new technology from the designing and building phase to the testing phase.
Similarly, the track — which is part of the lab — will be open to autonomous vehicle companies to come out and test their vehicles in a real world setting.
“Our focus originally was it would just be the road and we would get a car and say ‘Hey, if you want to come out and test on our car, that’s fine,’” Mason said. “But we talked to our partners. We were telling them our story. People like Sprint (and) the country of Israel ... and so they said ‘Well, you know what? What we’d really like for you to do is’ — and other people said this — ‘We’re not interested in the vehicle. We’ve got a vehicle. We just want to bring our vehicle, with our technology on it, and test on your track’ because that’s what city’s have. Cities have infrastructure.”
During the opening festivities, Local Motors provided rides around the City Hall parking lot in its Olli 8-seat shuttle bus, which will begin testing on the city’s track in October.
Meanwhile, Sprint Business President Jan Geldmacher highlighted the high-speed 5G internet technology that his company is partnering with the city to provide companies that come to the lab to test their technology.
“We, at Sprint, were very proud that we were able, and allowed, to power Curiosity Lab with true mobile 5G,” Geldmacher said. “I am convinced that mobile 5G will change the way we work, we live and we play. I think the way we work and the way we live are empowered by 5G to become real innovationalists.”
In addition to riding in an autonomous shuttle bus and witnessing Curiosity Lab’s ribbon cutting, attendees at Wednesday’s festivities interacted with a robot that could shake hands, wave its hand, carry on conversations, dance and pose for selfies.
They also watched an electric scooter driven around remotely by someone in Mexico City and a drone that could deliver food to a pre-set location using GPS. Other booths at City Hall featured a lawnmower that could can cut the grass on its own, and smart vehicles that Kia and Mercedes are working on.