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City-led Open Mobility Foundation Uses Open Source To Manage Transportation

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Seleta Reynolds runs the Los Angeles Department of Transportation with 7,500 miles of streets, 5,000 traffic signals, 37,000 parking meters and if that’s not enough one year ago the latest innovation in transportation arrived – dockless bikes also known as e-scooters. On a recent Friday in early July, there were 52,000 trips taken in L.A. on those scooters.

Reynolds and the LA DOT created the Mobility Data Specification (MDS) as a set of data specifications and data sharing requirements for dockless e-scooters and bicycles, which it shared on GitHub. Today, about 80 cities worldwide are using the MDS.

Now, L.A. is a founding member of the just-announced Open Mobility Foundation which is a city-led open source governing body for the development of code around the Mobility Data Specification. “We’ve seen what can happen with industry-led initiatives where one or more companies are in control,” says Reynolds. “This is different where cities are in control and will govern the open source software and specifications. This is good for everyone – with one open specification, cities don’t run the risk of getting locked into one supplier while suppliers gain access to a larger marketplace of multiple cities by building to one spec.”

The LADOT is contributing its work to the Open Mobility Foundation, which is now up and running with 15 large municipalities in the U.S., plus Bogota in Columbia. Private companies also hold memberships with representation by technology companies like Microsoft, plus scooter companies Bird and Spin. OMF is free for cities that want to join.

The Open Mobility Foundation board of directors is comprised of public municipalities and controls the architectural roadmap for the Mobility Data Specification. This month, the board elected Seleta Reynolds as its chair, and elected vice chair, Ramses Madou who is the division manager of planning, policy and sustainability for the Department of Transportation for the city of San José, California.

“We see this as a true collaboration among the cities with the commercial enterprises while the cities are in control since the Board hold responsibility for all approvals,” said Reynolds. “Managing the future of transportation is an incredibly steep challenge for cities, which can’t be solved in silos. It requires collaboration between municipalities and industry, which must be done transparently in the open to benefit everyone – especially the public.”

Reynolds would like to see participation by more municipalities – “it’s free and not just for large cities since any part of the MDS can be adopted,” as well as broad adoption and participation in the development of the Mobility Data Specification.

She says there is no end in sight in terms of future mobility options, some of which cannot even be imagined today. Cities need to welcome alternative forms of transportation while being able to manage their integration into transportation infrastructure for the overall good and safety of the general public.

“We can’t predict what will come next, and we want to avoid monopolies while making all forms of transportation available for everybody to use.” That is why the OMF was formed.

Recently, I had the chance to talk with Seleta Reynolds about all of this. Watch the full interview by clicking on the link to the video to hear more about how cities are addressing disruption in transportation infrastructure and utilizing technology that will serve in the future, as well.

(Kait Thornhill contributed to this story)

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Swapnil Bhartiya
I have more than 12 years of experience covering Enterprise Open Source, Cloud, Containers, IoT, Machine Learning and general tech. My stories cover a very broad spectrum - traditional Linux, data center and Free Software to contemporary emerging technologies like 'serverless'. Widely Read: My stories have appeared in a multitude of leading publications including CIO, InfoWorld, Network World, The New Stack, Linux Pro Magazine, ADMIN Magazine, HPE Insights, Raspberry Pi Geek Magazine, SweetCode, Linux For You, Electronics For You and more.
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