Hold the Chauffeur! Beverly Hills Pushing for Fleets of Self-Driving Cars

Courtesy of Tesla Motors

"Imagine an autonomous vehicle going down Rodeo Drive," says Mayor John Mirisch, who has met with tech giants Google and Apple to drum up interest (and investment) to make his municipality the first to integrate self-driving cars into its mass-transit infrastructure.

In case you didn't have enough screens in your life, Grayson Brulte wants you to add one more: your car. Specifically, if the co-chair of the city of Beverly Hills Mayor's Autonomous Vehicle Task Force prevails, your self-driving car.

The city has met with such tech giants as Google and Apple to drum up interest (and investment) in an effort to become the first municipality to integrate self-driving cars into its mass-transit infrastructure. But beyond all the civic advantages, Brulte insists that Hollywood should get behind the initiative for self-serving reasons. "The industry is going through massive disrupting changes," he says. "But no one is looking at autonomous vehicles."

Recent studies underscore the upside. "The car is effectively the fourth screen for media content consumption," declared a 2016 Morgan Stanley report. "In our view, this is what Silicon Valley will be targeting by leveraging the autonomous utility." In that vein, a recent Ernst & Young report concluded that driverless cars could generate $20 billion in incremental growth through increased streaming revenue.

Beverly Hills seeks to be a home for these futurist visions, a place where, Brulte hopes, industry players will see how driverless cars can improve their lives — and their bottom line. "Hollywood execs take for granted that everyone wants to watch their content," he says. "The studios should make sure their content is there. It has to be different from a phone, or a house — there has to be an experience for the car."

Beverly Hills already is a top contender as a lab for driverless cars. The first rail stop of Metro's Purple Line is set to debut in 2023, but the city could be on track to have its own fleet of autonomous cars or mini-buses well before then. In April, the City Council voted unanimously to create a program to develop self-driving cars as part of a public transportation plan that would use existing infrastructure and technology to help connect cars to the city's informational grid.

"L.A. is faced with a public transportation system that is second-class," says Beverly Hills Mayor John Mirisch, who hopes to have a fleet up and running in five to seven years. "We aim to shift that paradigm on its head." Mirisch says the excellent roads, quality infrastructure and well-educated populace in Beverly Hills make it an ideal place for auto engineers, inventors and tech companies to make a big splash. The city is in talks with such car manufacturers as Google, Volvo and BMW as well as with cutting-edge companies like Local Motors, an Arizona firm that manufactures self-driving cars with 3D printers.

"Imagine an autonomous vehicle going down Rodeo Drive," says Mirisch. "A lot of entertainment people who wanted to go into town wouldn't have to worry about parking."

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THE FUTURE OF L.A. TRANSIT IS UNDERWAY

What will life be like here when you no longer can complain about traffic? Within a few decades, the Hyperloop, a high-speed rail and self-driving cars will alter how you travel — and how fast.

1. HYPERLOOP
From a proposed L.A. terminus in Santa Clarita, Elon Musk's high-speed tube-transport system could reach San Francisco in less than an hour. Tests of the technology, which theoretically could top 700 mph, already are underway.

2. HIGH-SPEED RAIL
With construction underway (in the Central Valley), this project is slated to serve L.A. and San Francisco by 2029. The trains, which will travel up to 220 mph, would connect the two cities in two hours and 40 minutes.

3. SELF-DRIVING CARS
Beverly Hills is pursuing plans (see story below) that would make it the nation's first city to integrate autonomous vehicles into its public-transit system.

4. METRO EXPANSION
Overdue growth to existing rail might be less futuristic than 700 mph pneumatic tubes but arguably more transformational for most Angelenos. Highlights include a new line linking Culver City and the rest of the Westside to LAX (2019) and a Purple Line extension down Wilshire to La Cienega (2023) and — don't hold your breath — Westwood (2035).

5. FLY TO MARS (SERIOUSLY!)
Elon Musk and his Hawthorne-based SpaceX plan to send well-funded private travelers to Mars by 2024 (arriving a year later).

Click the map below for a larger version.

This story first appeared in the July 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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