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A roadmap for connected transportation

Cities of all sizes are exploring innovative new ways to use technology to optimize public transit routes, reduce vehicle congestion, increase safety and enable faster emergency response. From sensors that detect speeds and can help reroute traffic, to smart mass transit systems that turn buses and trains into Wi-Fi hotspots and provide real-time scheduling updates, technology is enabling innovative new approaches to both public and private transportation. But for these types of connected transportation initiatives to happen, cities, states and local governments will need both new technology architectures as well as new physical infrastructure to help connected vehicles and transit systems share data with each other and the environment around them.

Where to begin

Different cities, states and local municipalities will have different needs and goals, but there are some commonalities among most connected transportation initiatives. Those looking to move forward into the era of connected transportation and mobility may want to begin by focusing on the following areas:

  • Safety — Implementing connected transportation initiatives that can help improve safety is top of mind for any government. There are many ways that cities can use data to create a safer environment. For example, by communicating with roadside infrastructure and accessing microclimate weather data, connected vehicles can alert drivers to tell them if there is a patch of fog, ice or other hazard on the road ahead. They can communicate with traffic signals to know if they are about to change and adjust speed accordingly, or even alert the driver to slow down when they are entering a school zone. All these examples can help reduce the number of crashes and fatalities on our roadways.

    Another popular safety initiative for cities is traffic signal preemption. By connecting traffic signals and emergency response vehicles with the proper sensors and exchanging real-time data, cities can prioritize emergency responders and police, allowing them to preempt the traffic signals and arrive on scene faster. Doing this on a common, converged IP infrastructure and using standards-based dedicated short range communications enables the reuse of this architecture for many other applications with reduced incremental cost. This can yield enormous value through unlocking new data sets.

  • Mobility — With all the different transportation options available today, people want a seamless mobility experience when it comes to optimizing planning, scheduling, wayfinding and paying for their trips across different modes of transportation — and they want to be able to do it all from one platform. For example, if a person’s journey combines multiple modes of transportation such as bus, train and car-sharing, they should be able to easily schedule and pay for all those services from one platform or interface rather than accessing multiple different applications, scheduling and ticketing systems. To do this, cities will need to the ability to connect different modes of transportation — each with varied types of data — from multiple different transportation infrastructure assets and integrate it all in one common platform.
  • Efficiency — Asset utilization and the ability to gain benefit out of the common infrastructure assets already in place are important goals for many cities. By connecting existing infrastructure assets to a multiservice IoT network and enabling greater data-sharing capabilities, central operations centers for mass transit systems can monitor their fleets in real time, adding capacity and rerouting or making adjustments as needed. They can also provide riders with real-time alerts on scheduling changes for greater efficiency and reduced operational costs.

Underpinning each of these initiatives is the need for cities to build greater connectivity and data sharing. Much of the transportation infrastructure today is either not connected or is built on legacy and/or proprietary systems, making it difficult to gather and share data from different infrastructure assets all running on disparate technology platforms. For connected transportation to achieve its maximum potential, cities need to be able to gather data in real time from IoT-enabled assets like traffic lights and road sensors, combine it with other data, such as current weather data or video feeds from IP cameras, and share it with connected vehicles, public transit systems, emergency response crews and more.

To increase connectivity and data sharing, cities will need to build out both the technology infrastructure — data centers, cloud infrastructure, power, fiber optic cable, switching and routing infrastructure, cybersecurity — as well as the hardened, physical infrastructure assets such as IoT-connected traffic signals and sensors along roadways. Using the reference designs for connected and automated vehicle systems provided by the Department of Transportation, cities can build a data center architecture that is capable of scaling to handle the huge volume of data that will be generated by the hundreds of millions of connected vehicles and smart infrastructure assets that will all be communicating with each other. They should build a multiservice network that is capable of integrating multiple different technologies and disparate data sources onto one platform. This will allow everything from the traffic signals to connected vehicles on the road to weather data and data from mass transit systems to all function on the same infrastructure.

In addition to building out the technology architecture and physical infrastructure, cities will need to establish policies and procedures for data security and privacy. As transportation systems become more connected, they become increasingly alluring targets for cybercriminals, who can attack both the IT systems and even the operational technology controlling connected transportation systems to cause significant disruptions. Strong cybersecurity needs to span from the data center to the hardened infrastructure assets at the edge of the network, as well as the in-vehicle systems. Cities should plan to make ongoing investment in cybersecurity a high priority both in capital planning as well as operational planning, much the way that safety is today.

Likewise, cities will also need to develop and put into place appropriate processes, policies and procedures regarding data privacy and sovereignty. As citizens’ private vehicles are increasingly connected and communicating with city infrastructure, and vice versa, difficult questions are raised over how much control individuals have over the data their vehicles generate and share, who is allowed to monetize that data and who owns it. Cities will need to address which parties get to use the data being generated by different elements of the transportation system, who can access it, who it is shared with and more.

Finally, if the city or state’s transportation authorities have not already done so, they should join the Surface Transportation Information Sharing and Analysis Center to stay up to date on current threats, mitigation strategies and best practices.

By increasing connectivity and building a technology architecture that integrates data from many different sources onto a single platform, as well as establishing policies for data security and privacy, cities, states and local governments can create the foundation for a modern, connected, transportation system that will improve safety, mobility and efficiency both now and throughout the future.

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