How smart cities solve traffic congestion and improve driving safety

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Columbus is the “Smartest City in the United States”

Traffic jams are a universal pain for drivers. Let’s face it, no one wants to spend 2+ hours a day driving to and from work, and with few productive options available while driving, much of this time ends up being a total waste. Thanks to the launch of emerging connectivity technology and IoT applications, well-designed vehicle to everything (V2X) communication systems have become both near-term (smart sensor and road-sharing) and long-term (self-driving vehicles) solutions for tackling metropolitan traffic congestion, and shortening your daily commute.

Smart City Challenge

In order to help come up with the best V2X application and infrastructure implementation at a city level, the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) launched Smart City Challenge in December 2015, attracting more 78 applications nationwide in US. The USDOT and Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc. even pledged $50 million combined to the winner. The winning city will become the country’s first city to fully integrate V2X technologies for innovative applications such as self-driving cars, car-sharing mechanisms, connected vehicles, and smart sensors – directly into their transportation network.  After four-month long evaluations by both government and industry leaders, Columbus won the competition and the $50 million of funding. However, the story didn’t end here; the competition inspired various city initiatives tackling traffic congestions, driver safety and autonomous vehicle topics.

Traffic Congestion

As one of the key projects presented by the City of Pittsburgh, the Carnegie Mellon University developed a smart traffic signal system that uses sensors to identify transit and freight vehicles and allow them to move through the signals quicker. This implementation is expected to reduce idle time by 40% and travel time by 25%. The City of Denver and the City of Columbus have also proposed an intelligent transportation system concept for increasing the efficiency of traffic.

Driving Safety

In addition to solving critical congestion problems, improving safety on the road is another key goal of the Smart City Challenge. For instance, the Austin, TX has installed road sensors to monitor the roads regionally, which allows officials to react right at the moment a car accident happens. The city then can control traffic lights to better flow the traffic around the accident. In addition, the City of Portland launched its Ubiquitous Mobility program, which puts road safety as the top priority. The sensors on the connected fleets enable road sharing safety with car, bicycles and pedestrians.

Autonomous Vehicle

Establishing a sustainable V2X environment for self-driving vehicles is another hot initiative proposed by candidates such as Kansas City and City of San Francisco. The government of Kansas City plans to test an autonomous shuttle between KCI airports and downtown; while San Francisco is working with UC Berkeley on research into the elimination of traffic fatalities and carbon footprints through connected autonomous vehicles.

For more details on how these cities picture the blueprint for a better future, check here for the summary of the Smart City Challenge. You can also find the all pitches from the 7 finalists here.