Apr 5, 2022 - Technology

Smart cities: Public acceptance may take time

Percentage of Americans comfortable living in a “smart city,” by age
Data: Momentive; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Nearly half of Americans feel uncomfortable about the prospect of living in a smart city, a place where electricity grids, traffic lights and other infrastructure components are networked and internet-connected, an Axios-Momentive poll found.

Why it matters: Cities have embraced smart technology in fits and starts. They're lured by the promise of better citizen services, but fearful of the expense and the potential for security and privacy breaches.

  • So far, the most popular piece of the smart city ecosystem seems to be micromobility devices — shared e-scooter networks and the like.

Driving the news: Nearly half of the 2,553 adults in our online poll — 46% — say they're apprehensive about smart cities, with a full 19% saying they're "not comfortable at all" with the idea of living in one.

  • Younger people have a slightly higher comfort level, with 59% of 18- to 34-year-olds endorsing smart cities vs. 51% of respondents overall.
  • Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to say they're comfortable living in a smart city (64% vs. 39%).

Where it stands: Smart city technology can include a lot of different components, from EV charging stations and online city services to smart parking systems that direct motorists to available spaces.

Percentage of Americans who have used the following micromobility devices
Data: Momentive; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Bring on the e-scooters: When it comes to micromobility devices — like electric scooters, bikes and skateboards — three-quarters of us are happy to have them in public places, according to the poll by Axios and Momentive, the makers of Survey Monkey.

  • This is true among all adults, regardless of age, gender or race.
  • Republicans are less likely to support the placement of micromobility devices than Democrats (68% vs. 80%).
  • And yet — no matter their party affiliation — far fewer people have actually tried the devices.

The big picture: Cities have been gingerly permitting companies like Bird, Lime and Veo to set up shared scooter networks, with mixed — and evolving — results.

  • Complaints have poured in about safety problems and abandoned scooters lying akimbo on sidewalks.
  • But the resoundingly favorable attitude toward these car-substitutes augurs well for their staying power.

Details: Despite broad support, 63% of adults say they haven’t used any micromobility vehicles.

  • Among those who have, electric scooters (24%) and electric bicycles (13%) are most popular, followed by electric skateboards (6%) and shared bicycles (9%).
  • Not surprisingly, young people were more likely to say they had tried e-scooters: 40% of 18- to 34-year-olds said they'd given them a whirl vs. 20% of 35- to 64-year-olds, and 11% of people 65 and older.

Methodology: The Axios-Momentive online poll was conducted March 23-25, 2022, among a national sample of 2,553 adults. Respondents were selected from the more than 2 million people who take surveys on the Momentive platform each day. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 2 percentage points. Data have been weighted for age, race, sex, education and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States age 18 and over.

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