Dwell and Volvo Explore the City of Tomorrow in Los Angeles

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By Erika Heet / Published by Dwell
Presented by
Editor-in-Chief Amanda Dameron hosted a panel of industry leaders in a discussion on how technology will inform the future of design and transportation of our cities.

On Saturday, November 15, Dwell and Volvo hosted The City of Tomorrow, an exploration of how design and technology keep Los Angeles at pace with the modern global landscape. Held at The Lot in Hollywood—which was built in 1918 and the location of hundreds of movies, including Robin Hood (1922), Some Like It Hot (1959), and West Side Story (1961)—the event welcomed an audience of influencers, city leaders, and design aficionados for a lively discussion hosted by Dwell Editor-in-Chief Amanda Dameron. Joining her onstage were Seleta Reynolds, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation under Mayor Garcetti; Cynthia Hirschhorn, environment designer and governing board member, L.A. River Revitalization Corporation; Jeanine Centuori, director of Woodbury University's Architecture and Civic Engagement Center and principal at UrbanRock Design; and Håkan Samuelsson, president and CEO, Volvo Car Group.

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Dwell Editor-in-Chief Amanda Dameron (center) chats with, from left, Seleta Reynolds, Cynthia Hirschhorn, Jeanine Centuori, and Håkan Samuelsson.

Before and after the discussion, attendees were invited to discover the new XC90, which marks the beginning of a new chapter in Volvo’s history, capturing its future design direction, incorporating new technologies, and utilizing its new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) technology. The cars launched exclusively online for pre-orders on September 3, 2014.

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The City of Tomorrow was held at the Lot in the heart of Hollywood, the location for many movies and television shows.

The panelists touched on the successful partnership between executives at Volvo and planners in the City of Gothenburg, Sweden. The discussion centered around how substantial research on driving behavior, alongside careful consideration of city infrastructure, can result in progressive new models for any world capital. Among the initiatives introduced by Volvo include a pilot program of 100 self-driving cars designed to eliminate traffic fatalities by 2020. "Autonomous vehicles are an integrated part of Volvo Cars’ as well as the Swedish government’s vision of zero traffic fatalities," says Samuelsson. "This public pilot represents an important step toward this goal. It will give us an insight into the technological challenges at the same time as we get valuable feedback from real customers driving on public roads." The brand's vehicles are also a major component of environmentally friendly car-sharing programs as well as self-parking car garages. Another interesting initiative is Volvo’s new Roam Delivery, which allows people to use their car as a delivery location when ordering goods online. Via a smartphone or a tablet, the owner will be informed when a delivery company wants to drop off or pick up a parcel from the car.

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Beneath electric indigo light, scenes of Sweden were draped and projected onto the walls.

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A guest tests out Volvo Reality, which consists of an app that allows users to take a virtual test drive using their smart phones.

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The sound stage became a venue for the discussion on what's driving civic design and a display area for the new Volvo XC90. "When you utilize technology, it changes you," said Reynolds of L.A.'s Department of Transportation.

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On the subject of autonomous driving and parking technology, which Samuelsson, right, explained is being explored in Volvo's home city of Gothenburg, Sweden, "It all starts with parking," said Centuori, left. "We need to take dead zones [in our cities] and make them useful." Samuelsson also cited research in the area of deliveries made directly to one's car.

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An engaged audience listened to the discussion on the ways in which good design allows us to live better lives.

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The new XC90 is the first car in its range to be built on the Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) technology, which allows extensive design customization on top of a fixed architecture that can be used for other models.