Editor’s note: The following story is part of Startland News’ coverage of the SXSW conference in Austin. Click here to read more stories from the 2022 trip.
AUSTIN — A tech company from Silicon Valley’s largest city is unleashing a new era of smart infrastructure technology for the world in motion — and Kansas City entrepreneur Austin Wilson is more than just along for the ride.
“As someone who was hit by a vehicle in Los Angeles in 2005, it was a no-brainer for me to join an organization dedicated to systemic safety and delivering meaningful outcomes to communities worldwide,” said Wilson, who serves as the director of Intelligent Infrastructure for San Jose-based Velodyne Lidar, a remote position that also allows him to lead the Kansas City-built GovTech Labs, which he founded in October 2020.
Click here to read more about how Austin Wilson planted roots in Kansas City.
Alongside his California colleagues, Wilson took the stage this month during SXSW in Austin after Velodyne Lidar was honored with the Smart Cities, Transportation and Delivery award at the annual SXSW Innovation Awards.
The company’s lidar-based Intelligent Infrastructure Solution (IIS) advances road safety through multimodal analytics that detects vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. It can predict, diagnose and address road safety challenges, helping municipalities and other customers make informed decisions to take corrective action.
“Velodyne invented 3D lidar as the world knows it today, creating an entirely new industry,” Wilson explained. “Lidar is a key technology for autonomous systems, including in the automotive, robotics, industrial and infrastructure markets. It can enable the movement of people and goods safely throughout the world.”
The IIS solution, which combines its sensors with software from Bluecity.ai, was recognized at SXSW for its work in saving lives and improving cities globally, said Sally Frykman, chief market officer, who accepted the award on behalf of the company.
Along with the award, Velodyne Lidar secured a deal with the City of Austin, Frykman shared on LinkedIn.
“We are not only thrilled to win this award but also honored to be working directly with the City of Austin, which chose to deploy our IIS technology at one of the most dangerous intersections in the city,” she wrote. “Together, we are striving to realize the goal of Vision Zero to eliminate deaths of all vulnerable road users. We are going to transform transportation to improve safety, [sustainability] and efficiency!”
Click here to check out Velodyne Lidar.
Proactively getting to the root cause
When it comes to traffic safety, being proactive versus reactive is the difference between life and death, Wilson said. Through Velodyne Lidar’s technology, cities across the nation can adopt a proactive approach that will provoke change before someone actually gets hurt.
In Kansas City, Missouri, an initiative called “Vision Zero” takes several months to receive and evaluate accident data, he explained. The city then decides what corrective actions could be made to make the street or road safer for the community.
It’s a reactive approach, Wilson noted.
“Kansas City is not unique,” he said. “… KCMO can leverage our Intelligent Infrastructure Solution to quantify and deliver meaningful outcomes based on near-miss data. This will enable KCMO to solve problems in real time prior to collisions happening. Instead of four people being hit by a vehicle in the same intersection to [enact] change, the city can know four people were almost hit by vehicles to [enact] change.”
Velodyne Lidar works to solve the problem prior to the root cause, Wilson added.
“This is the proactive state which will help enable KCMO to meet their Vision Zero goals of eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries on our streets by 2030,” Wilson said. “It can increase safe, healthy, equitable mobility for everyone in the region.”
Life-changing tech at SXSW
Lidar is sometimes a lesser-known technology, Wilson admitted, but conferences like SXSW allow for entrepreneurs to share their research and solutions with one another.
“Leveraging lidar, edge compute and AI as a solution is even more of a rarity; being at SXSW was all about education — how we bring those three technologies into a solution to improve traffic safety,” Wilson said. “My focus was both how much can I learn from others, and how many people can I educate about our emerging technology. The conference and awards ceremony were a great success in those regards.”
SXSW is an incredible opportunity for startups to showcase their “life-changing technology,” Wilson said — noting that he would be happy to walk fellow entrepreneurs through the process of applying to and attending SXSW.
“It is my hope that people will be inspired to make noise, be bold, stand up for what you believe in and disrupt the status quo,” Wilson shared. “I am here to help the KCMO community make it happen!”
Click here to follow Austin Wilson on LinkedIn.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.