(Forsyth County, GA) After some debate, Forsyth County commissioners gave a green light for the next steps needed to create a “smart city” lab for autonomous vehicles near Halcyon during their work session meeting on Tuesday, May 23.
The idea of the lab was first brought before the BOC last fall by SmartPoint and county staff with the goal of making Forsyth County home to one of the first living labs for autonomous vehicles, similar to Curiosity Lab in Peachtree City.
SmartPoint is a technology company that creates “digital infrastructure that enables next-gen applications on the network edge,” according to its website. More specifically, “SmartPoint is a data center on the sidewalk” that looks like (and can be used as) a digital advertising billboard.
The plan is to install several data centers (which will be donated to the county by SmartPoint) at intersections around McFarland Parkway and Ronald Reagan Boulevard to utilize artificial intelligence to improve traffic camera functions.
Using artificial intelligence, the SmartPoint devices can take the data from traffic cameras and put it to good use, such as alerting authorities of accidents, improving traffic patterns and detecting gunshots or glass breaking. They could also communicate with “smart” vehicles to alert the driver of a cyclist up ahead to alert the driver to stop, for example.
Companies from around the world would be able to come to test and perfect smart technology at this lab.
Last fall, commissioners voted to allow staff to begin researching the legal details and other actions needed to begin the pilot project.
The commissioners engaged in lots of debate around the lab, with concerns ranging from data privacy to the data centers being used as billboards to what benefits the lab would have for citizens.
Ultimately, the commissioners voted 4 to 1 to approve an encroachment agreement with SmartPoint to allow the company to start taking the necessary actions to build the data centers, such as surveying and designing.
District 3 Commissioner Todd Levent added an amendment to the motion requiring county staff to research the benefits the proposed lab would have for county citizens and how those benefits could be provided without using billboards and advertisements.
District 4 Commissioner Cindy Mills voted against the motion, having argued that she would prefer to invest in smart traffic lights to avoid the clutter of billboards.
However, the agreement does not yet give official permission for the data centers to be built.
Items approved at work session meetings must gain final approval at the next regular meeting.
More information on SmartPoint can be found at smartpoint.io.
The full May 23 commissioner's work session meeting can be watched at forsythco.com/meetings.
If you have a news tip in Forsyth County, contact Justine Lookenott at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow her on Twitter at @justalookenott.
To learn more about the project, read “Tech Watch: Forsyth County could become home to one of Georgia’s first ‘Smart Cities.”