Transport is a pivotal component of any successful smart city.
Transport is a pivotal component of any successful smart city.
( Source: Adobe Stock)

Smart City Smart traffic management is pivot to smart city success

Author / Editor: Cate Lawrence / Florian Richert

Transport is a pivotal component of any successful smart city. It involves a plethora of infrastructure, partnerships, and of course, plenty of funding. While we wait for hyperloops and flying taxis to enter our lives in any meaningful way, there's plenty of innovation at work on our cities roads, from traffic to parking and waste collection.

If there's something that underpins the practicality smart city initiatives, it's mobility. Sensor technology creates valuable data insights that help city planners and transport providers move people around a city via a variety of safe, clean, reliable, and affordable modes of transport. It's not only about the actual mode of transport but a range of services and public and private partnerships. These include the collection of insights such as traffic patterns, weather, and the functionality of public utilities such as lighting, parking meters, smart traffic lights, mapping, and transport ticketing apps, and waste collection.

While there's plenty of focus on end to end transport solutions that encompass public transport, e-bikes, and scooters, there's also plenty of attention focused on the streets of the city and the drivers that travel through them. Smart roads are an ever-evolving space as providers and planners struggle to plan (and fund) existing solutions and anticipate those in readiness for autonomous vehicle deployment. Let's take a look:

Smart traffic management

The GiveMeGreen! app allows bicycle riders to be automatically detected up to 300 feet in advance of an intersection, without ever having to press the bike/pedestrian crossing button
The GiveMeGreen! app allows bicycle riders to be automatically detected up to 300 feet in advance of an intersection, without ever having to press the bike/pedestrian crossing button
(Source: GiveMeGreen)

Traffic delays not only lead to driver frustration but also increased sound and air pollution, delays in first responder efforts, and significant economic impacts caused by running late. A study by Texas A&M Transportation Institute links a strong economy to more traffic jams. Commuters today spend about 54 hours a year in traffic, wasting more than 3.3 billion gallons of gas and costing the nation $179 billion annually.

A digital traffic management system uses sensors and traffic signals to monitor, control, and respond to traffic conditions. These centrally managed sensors and traffic signals are found on the city's main roads. They can help address such as pollution, response to incidents, and inbound flow control. There's a myriad of different solutions available to cities. One example is a system that not only collects data but can control the cities roads digitally.

Applied Information's Connected Traffic Cabinet System enables traffic engineers to wirelessly monitor, maintain, and communicate with signal controllers to keep traffic running smoothly. In the event of a problem, the controller automatically sends out SMS or email alerts to engineers.

Another example is Sensys Networks, a provider of integrated wireless traffic data systems for Smart Cities who have created a comprehensive detection and data platform for virtually all traffic management needs. Their end-to-end solution, comprised of sensors, edge gateways, and highly sophisticated data management software, has been deployed in hundreds of cities globally.

One of its products is GiveMeGreen! App that allows bicycle riders to be automatically detected up to 300 feet in advance of an intersection, without ever having to press the bike/pedestrian crossing button. The app uses GPS and communicates with signalized intersections via a secure Bluetooth connection. No in-ground, video or radar detectors are needed. Transportation agencies can define detection zones and use existing signal phases or design special timings to take advantage of this new detection input. Optional visual cues enabled by the service include: signal phase state and a countdown timer within the app; bicycle crossing lights at the intersection for cyclists; and bicycle presence warnings for turning motorists.

It follows that real-time traffic solutions are in development for a future of connected cars. Connected Signals has developed sophisticated techniques to predict future signal states.

Smart parking

Part of the cause of traffic congestion is drivers looking for parking spaces. Fortunately, there's a range of intelligent parking apps to reduce the time spent looking for a parking spot. They include mapping to help find a car park, as well as providing detailed, live information around hours and availability, tariffs, directions, and distance. Payment functionality reduces the need to pay by machine and can enable top-ups before the 'parking meter' running low.

Smart waste and recycling

Big Belly has created a platform of solar-powered compacting units embedded with sensors that signify to the city waste department when they are full
Big Belly has created a platform of solar-powered compacting units embedded with sensors that signify to the city waste department when they are full
(Source: Big Belly)

When you think of road congestion, you might not be thinking about litter. Litter looks unsightly and causes health and hygiene issues, but large garbage trucks can contribute to congestion as they follow an established route. In response, Big Belly has created a platform of solar-powered compacting units embedded with sensors that signify to the city waste department when they are full. In the City of Philadelphia, Smart Belly has installed over 1,300 smart Bigbelly waste and recycling units are across the city limits.

The use of the bins resulted in the average weekly collection reduction of 82 percent from 17x to 3x with one shift instead of three. The city embraced the smart transformation of waste operations. Public spaces are noticeably cleaner as a result of Bigbelly, the streets are calmer too—reduced collection requirements mean fewer trash trucks congestion and using less fuel. Philadelphia quickly became the national leader in adopting citywide smart waste and recycling, and continues to reap the benefits nearly a decade after original installation.

Smart stadiums

Events such as concerts and live sports involve vast crowds of people moving to and from venues at the same time, resulting in substantial bottlenecks. Beyond the game or show, smart stadiums can provide a personalized experience with shorter lines and directions to navigate faster through crowded stadiums and parking facilities. Smart stadiums can also connect with smart city traffic portals to monitor conditions such as traffic, parking, weather, and even missing children in real-time to ease traffic woes.

By nature of its digitization, a smart city is not only responsive but proactive and flexible and thus relies on critical insights to make split-second decisions. An example is if a smart city traffic control center detects a traffic bottleneck or accident. They control center can inform local transport systems of the delay in real time and also recommend an alternative transport to visitors departing a nearby sports stadium after a game.

Waze open data

Traffic alerts reported by Waze users.
Traffic alerts reported by Waze users.
(Source: Waze)

Part of the key principles underpinning smart cities is open and accessible data. Waze navigation software, owned by Google. It provides turn-by-turn navigation information. Users effectively crowdfund the functionality of the app through user-submitted travel times and route details such as traffic jams, car accidents and other delays. Its users are a global community of over 115 million people, including drivers, riders, map editors, beta testers—all of who crowdsource and contribute to real-time, live navigation.

Waze data is used extensively by cities to inform mobility projects and policies, from congestion pricing to event-specific traffic control, as well as share their own information about street closures or construction directly with their citizens daily. Partners can choose to access this data via Google Cloud.

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