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The $1bn city where human beings are not welcome

A scientific ghost town in New Mexico's oil and gas country will hum with the latest next-generation technology – but no people.

A $1bn city without residents will be developed in Lea County near Hobbs, officials announced, to help researchers test everything from intelligent traffic systems and next-generation wireless networks to automated washing machines and self-flushing toilets.

The Mayor of Hobbs, Sam Cobb, said the unique research facility that looks like an empty city will diversify the economy of the nearby community, which, after the oil bust of the 1980s, saw bumper stickers asking the last person to leave the area to turn out the lights.

"It brings so many great opportunities and puts us on a world stage," Mr Cobb said.

The Centre for Innovation, Technology and Testing is being billed as a first-of-its kind smart city that will be developed on about 15 square miles. The town will be modelled on the real city of Rock Hill in South Carolina, complete with highways, houses and commercial buildings, old and new.

The idea is to enable researchers to test new technologies without interfering in everyday life. For example, while some researchers will test smart technologies on old grids, others might use the streets to test self-driving cars.