Transportation Innovation: A Major Driver of Smart City Growth

Technology touches all aspects of our society today.  This is especially so for the growing number of Smart Cities. Each of these cities embraces new technology to improve the day-to-day lives of their citizens, which often results in simplifying the way those citizens access public transportation.

Internet of Things Agenda defines a Smart City as:

“A municipality that uses information and communication technologies to increase operational efficiency, share information with the public, and improve both the quality of government services and citizen welfare.”

Prioritizing transportation initiatives is a major way that Smart Cities across the globe have been increasing operational efficiency in recent years, especially as society has begun moving away from automated technology and toward autonomous solutions.

Encouraging States to Put Smart Transportation First

There are multiple factors influencing the deployment of Smart City transportation. For instance, the US Department of Transportation has encouraged each state to embrace concepts of Smart Transportation.  In order to do this, state DOTs must closely collaborate with local jurisdictions to understand what the communities’ critical needs are to help them achieve their goals.

One example of this effort was the US DOT’s Smart City Challenge. Launched in 2015, this initiative provided $350 million in public and private funds towards advanced transportation technology. The initiative aimed to help cities address their challenges through various long-term projects.  Many of these projects, which are still ongoing in 2019, aim to solve typical urban mobility challenges for mid-to-large cities such as:

  • Connecting underserved communities to jobs
  • Moving goods in and out of the city
  • Integrating data collection throughout various systems
  • Establishing better parking systems
  • Controlling carbon emissions
  • Improving traffic flow

Approximately 80 applicant cities submitted proposals, outlining a vision of how technology could address these issues.  Ideas generated through this initiative include:

  • Forty-four cities suggesting projects that involve automated shared-use vehicles for travelers.
  • Eleven cities seeking to improve urban freight delivery through smart curb space management (sensors, reservation technology, etc.).
  • Seventeen cities investigating wireless charging stations for electric vehicles.
  • Fifty-three cities examining Dedicated Short-Range Communication (DSRC) to connect vehicles and infrastructure.
  • Forty-five cities examining an integrated traffic and transportation analytical environment to support more unified decision making.

Transportation in the Smartest City: Singapore

The focus of Smart City development on transportation technology has become global. This is especially so for the smartest city in the world.

Singapore, a city-state and island in Southeast Asia, won the Smart City of 2018 award at Smart City Expo World Congress. This is in part due to the high priority placed on transportation innovation. The city is already embracing autonomous vehicles, which are “the future of Singapore’s transport system,” according to the Transport Smart Nation Singapore Initiative.

Self-driving technology is already a reality for some in Singapore since its approval for public road testing in July 2015. Dignitaries, such as Singapore’s prime minister, have been ferried through the city by autonomous vehicles. Similarly, Nanyang Technological University has implemented a driverless shuttle bus, which transports up to 600 passengers daily. Public autonomous transportation, such as 40-seat electric buses, is currently in the works as well.

Singapore also plans to improve commuters’ overall experience with a wait time for public transport shortened by three to seven minutes and a 92% reduction of overcrowded transportation. How will this be done? By leveraging real-time location intelligence.

In their Open Data and Analytics for Urban Transportation project, Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) plans to use data from sensors installed in over 5,000 vehicles to make sure arrival time and bus availability are sufficient for commuter demand. LTA has also worked to provide travelers with access to real-time data such as bus arrival time, taxi availability, traffic conditions, and carpark availability so they can make informed decisions on how to navigate their surroundings.

The Road to Come

So, what will be a crucial technical factor in realizing the benefit of smart, interconnected cities across the globe?  Technology platforms that embrace open architecture principles.

Such open architecture enables a tightly integrated system of platforms built on standards that allow for communication between a wide range of systems currently used by transportation agencies.  It embraces IoT devices and the massive amounts of data they can provide. And it allows users to integrate those data streams into analytics technology to transform the data into usable insight.

Open architecture technology also provides government leaders with the ability to significantly reduce the time frame for deploying systems that can seamlessly communicate with each other in a reliable fashion.

These are exciting times as we witness the advent of a new age in leveraging and managing transportation systems. See how tools for real-time data analytics are already empowering cities to become Smart Cities.

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