Traffic congestion costs more than $300 billion each year in the U.S. alone, according to INRIX, due to lost productivity, increased transportation cost, wasted fuel and other factors.
New smart city advancements aim to alleviate traffic congestion with the help of new technologies, including cellular connectivity, artificial intelligence, new sensors and connected vehicle technologies. Combined with public transportation investments, these efforts could reduce traffic costs and eliminate a major stressor for many Americans.
Let’s take a look at four technologies that will form the basis for smart city transportation over the coming decade.
1: Cellular & IoT Technologies
Real-time wireless communication is at the heart of smart cities. In particular, the Internet-of-Things (IoT) revolution is incorporating cellular modems into all kinds of physical devices to provide Internet connectivity. The goal is to improve communication and unlock new benefits.
For example, Applied Information’s Connected Traffic Cabinet System enables traffic engineers to wirelessly monitor, maintain and communicate with signal controllers to keep traffic running smoothly. If any problems arise, the controller automatically sends out SMS or email alerts to engineers.
The rollout of 5G cellular networks could accelerate these trends. With less latency and greater bandwidth, 5G opens the door to many new applications that weren’t practical when used with slower 3G or 4G LTE solutions. These technologies are already beginning to be incorporated into new vehicle models.
Traffic congestion costs more than $300 billion each year in the U.S. alone, but smart city technologies can help. Click To Tweet
2: Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) could revolutionize the way cities manage everything from traffic signal patterns to healthcare services. Whenever there’s data that could be used to make decisions, AI and ML technologies can be leveraged to ensure that a better decision is made.
For example, IBM patented an AI-powered traffic management system last year that could leverage data from cameras to calculate optimal traffic patterns. These traffic patterns could then be relayed t smart traffic signals, which could account for slow-moving pedestrians, unexpected traffic queues from events and other scenarios that may arise.
Open source machine learning platforms, such as TensorFlow, are making it easier than ever to develop these kinds of applications. In addition, several companies have been building up impressive datasets designed to train machine learning algorithms to recognize road features.
3: Next Generation Sensors
Sensors are necessary to generate the right data for machines to make intelligent decisions. While many AI and ML technologies are focused on cameras, sensors may be able to provide a more robust way to power everything from autonomous driving to smart traffic infrastructure.
For example, LIDAR sensors have become the preferred mechanism for autonomous vehicles. These sensors measure the distance to a target with pulsed laser lights. Differences in laser return times and wavelengths are used to create 3D representations of a target, which may be more accurate than analyzing images.
The most advanced LIDAR sensors, such as those developed by the self-driving car company Waymo, not only detect pedestrians but figure out the direction they’re facing. The sensors can even see hand signals from bicyclists and drive accordingly, which is rapidly bringing them on par with human eyes.
4: Connected Vehicles
Connected and autonomous vehicles stand at the center of these technologies. With built-in IoT capabilities, these vehicles can broadcast their location to traffic infrastructure and other vehicles on the road. Next generation sensors and AI technology help respond to obstacles and create a safer driving experience.
These vehicles could improve traffic in many ways:
- Traffic Convoys: Connected vehicles are capable of driving in tight convoys that minimize congestion by maintaining constant speeds with little space between vehicles.
- Infrastructure: Connected vehicles can communicate their intended travel path to traffic infrastructure in advance, which can help optimize traffic planning.
- Safety: Connected vehicles can communicate with pedestrians and bicyclists to receive alerts when dangerous conditions are present and minimize accidents.
Tesla and other companies are already introducing autonomous driving capabilities that leverage connected technologies. As smart cities develop, supporting infrastructure can leverage these communication channels to improve safety and make the driving experience safer and more enjoyable.
Preparing Your Infrastructure
There’s no doubt that automakers are doing their part to embrace connected vehicle technologies, but many cities have been slower to adopt smart infrastructure.
The high cost of smart infrastructure is a key roadblock for many municipalities. While many tech companies offer incentives for such projects, city officials are worried about public-private partnerships and providing sensitive data to these companies.
Applied Information provides an alternative: upgrading existing infrastructure with add-on connectivity. Our Connected Traffic Cabinet System and other solutions are designed to add connectivity to existing traffic signals without the need to replace them. All of these technologies integrate with our Glance Smart City Supervisory System that provides a high level overview of all of your ITS assets.
For example, Applied Information collaborated with Temple Traffic to design a smart city platform for Sandy Springs, GA. The system leverages Field Communications Monitoring Units and the Glance management software to provide the city with feedback on traffic device performance, as well as send alerts to the correct personnel to address any problems.
The Bottom Line
Traffic congestion costs upwards of $300 billion per year in lost productivity, fuel costs and other costs, but smart city transportation technologies can help mitigate these losses. These technologies include cellular modems, artificial intelligence, next generation sensors and connected vehicles.
Applied Information makes smart city technologies more affordable by adding cellular connectivity to existing infrastructure rather than replacing it.
Contact us today for a consultation to learn more about our solutions and how to make your city smarter.