Lacuna boosts digital twins for metro transit networks with a $16M raise, According to VentureBeat Lacuna recently raised $16 million to assist cities to build digital twins to raised manage and monetize transit networks. The new funding brings the entire investment in Lacuna to $33.5 million. this might appear to be tons of cash for a corporation that essentially creates a contemporary SimCity for traffic. But the important value comes from allowing cities to make new revenue streams and incentivize new services for public benefit. Lacuna enables cities to iterate and experiment with digital tollbooths and dynamic policy enforcement mechanisms.
Lacuna competes within the larger marketplace for government digital twins, currently led by geographic data system (GIS) tools providers like Esri. Lacuna CEO Hugh Martin told VentureBeat, “The tools we create manage these municipal assets and enable reservation and use systems that are revenue-generating. While Esri and GIS have great uses for planning, they’re not designed for dynamic operations like e-scooter management, curb management, and concrete aerial mobility.”
The tragedy of the transit commons
The investment also points to the role that dynamic transportation policies could play in reclaiming our transit commons from the unintended consequences of the latest services like micro-mobility, ride-sharing, drone deliveries, and consumer navigation services. during a letter to the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, Martin argued that these services amount to a replacement category of digital signage. The digital backbone of those services essentially controls traffic at scale in ways in which are more aligned with corporate profit and individual convenience than public benefit.
The net result’s a tragedy of the transit commons during which Waze guides massive traffic down tiny side streets, scooters threaten pedestrians and block sidewalks, Ubers and Lyfts clog downtown streets, and delivery vehicles block ongoing traffic. These services increasingly operate electricity, which suggests they are doing not pay the gas taxes that fund road and sidewalk improvement.
Traditional traffic and policy enforcement mechanisms like meters, signs, tickets, and fines cannot continue with rapid changes in traffic from these new services. New digital policy enforcement mechanisms are going to be required to make dynamic policies that align commercial interests with the common benefit. Martin told VentureBeat that Lacuna provides cities with the open source tools they have to make sure commercial deployments align with public policy.
Building digital twin for L.A.
When e-scooters first showed up in L.A. in 2018, they jammed the streets and therefore the sidewalks and were left in chaotic piles. the town worked with Ellis & Associates, a Lacuna subsidiary, to implement a digital twin for measuring usage and managing special operations zones in areas just like the Venice Beach neighborhood that reduced complaints by 73%. This new digital twin also helped identify inequity in scooter availability in lower-income and disadvantaged communities.
While other cities placed outright limits on the amount of scooters and therefore the companies that would manage them, L.A.’s transit digital twin allowed a more dynamic approach to align the interests of those services with the transit commons. the town created a program that allowed any company to deploy as many scooters as they wanted within a 503-mile area. But that they had to submit verifiable data to the L.A. Department of Transportation using the new mobility data specification (MDS).
MDS defines application programming interfaces (APIs) that standardize and automate the kinds and formats of knowledge that commercial mobility operators undergo cities to streamline the method. MDS also includes features for shielding individual privacy.
This allowed city policymakers to spot what was working and what wasn’t. Over time, they crafted 110 digital policies that helped enforce public interest to enable service providers to innovate new services in a way that aligned with shared interests.
Scaling transit innovation
L.A. condensed its template into MDS, a replacement open source software and open data specification managed by the Open Mobility Foundation. The Rockefeller and Knight foundations fund the group, which allows it to license MDS to public entities for free of charge. As a result, many cities around the world have already signed on to use MDS.
“This rapid adoption demonstrates the size of the impact this technology is already having in driving municipal digital transformation, Lacuna boosts digital twins for metro transit networks,” Martin said.