For the 9th consecutive year, the Intelligent Transportation Society of Georgia is supporting student involvement in intelligent transportation engineering and sciences through the Wayne Shackelford ITS Engineering Scholarship Program. Mr. Shackelford was an early ITS visionary, co-founder of ITS Georgia and Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner.
This year’s challenge question was:
“What Smart City applications or Internet of Things (IoT) technologies do you think governments should be utilizing now to improve overall mobility in their urban regions? Describe your proposed technologies and the expected benefits.”
Several opportunities to improve urban mobility involve the the application of smart city concepts and the use of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. First, smart city applications and IoT technologies have been dened in the context of urban transportation. This is followed by the suggested applications which governments should deploy to improve mobility in their urban regions and their expected impact. The suggested applications include both concepts which are currently used in practice as well as possibilities for the future.
The core concept of smart cities is to leverage information and communication technologies to improve the management of public assets. Smart city applications require comprehensive and consistent sources of data to operate successfully. The Internet of Things refers to a network of devices with the ability to collect and exchange data. Thus, IoT devices serve as vital sources of data for many smart city applications. In the context of transportation, relevant IoT devices would include traffic signals, vehicle sensors, personal smart devices, bus stops, public Wi-Fi hotspots, ramps, passenger vehicles, commercial vehicles, buses and trains which are connected to a network.
A common smart city transportation application is to track and provide information on public transit routes and arrival times. The expected benet is to increase the utility of public transit as a transportation mode choice. In closed networks, route and arrival time information can be displayed at bus stops and stations. By making route and arrival time information available in the Internet, the utility of public transit can be further increased by allowing users to plan their trip in advance. GPS trackers are the primary IoT devices which collect the required data for this application. This same data can have other applications as well. Real-time GPS data of buses can be used to space them out evenly, reducing the frequency of long waiting times. Despite these possible benets, only 28% of transit agencies in the US provide transit arrival times freely over the Internet , underlining the potential in this eld.
An excellent example of the potential of public transit data was given in the US Department of Trans- portation's Smart City Challenge  in 2015. The City of Columbus won the Smart City Challenge. Their proposal aimed to reduce infant mortality and the health disparity gap by improving accessibility to health services for underserved communities. Their proposal included apps for multi-modal trip planning and assis- tance to persons with disabilities; a common payment system for all transportation modes; and integration with various travel services at key locations. The city plans to provide free Wi-Fi from hotspots connected to streetlights in underserved communities, allowing users to connect to ride sharing services or get information on public transit routes and schedules.
Urban mobility can also be improved using smart city applications for parking. 30% of vehicles in congested downtown traffic are vehicles looking for parking . Hence, tracking and disseminating parking availability information has great potential in improving traffic efficiency in congested areas. The relevant IoT devices here are parking spot sensors. In a closed network, these sensors aggregate parking availability information which is displayed on signs. With Internet connectivity, this parking information can be made directly available to smart devices and connected vehicles, navigating them to free spots and reducing cruising for parking. In the future, as real-time parking spot information on the Internet becomes common, further possibilities of optimization open up: parking in a vicinity can be pooled and parking can be distributed to minimize bottlenecks.
A connected network of traffic signals has great potential to improve urban mobility. In this case, the traffic signal controller acts as an IoT device, which is in turn connected to vehicle detection sensors such as induction loops. Several applications are possible with this traffic data. First, connected trac signals can be dynamically reprogrammed and synchronized as often as necessary to optimize the ow of traffic and minimize delays. A smart traffic signal system was proposed in Pittsburgh to reduce traffic delays by up to 40% along major traffic corridors  in 2015. Second, the traffic data can be used for providing real-time traffic information to vehicles. Inefficiency due to congestion costs shippers US$ 28 million annually .
As a result, multiple finalisits in the US DOT's Smart City Challenge proposed freight signal prioritization and truck platooning|both involving connected vehicle technologies. The expected benefit from these two approaches are reduced fuel consumption and reduced emissions. Third, the collected traffic data can be leveraged for long-term transportation planning.
In conclusion, a number of smart city applications for improved urban mobility exist, with more possibilities growing. These applications can improve the utility of public transit, improve parking efficiency and optimize traffic flow. Smart city applications for transportation have benefits beyond improved mobility. They have a social impact as well, improving accessibility to jobs and services and bridging the digital divide.
References  US DOT (2015). Smart City Challenge. https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/les/docs/Smart%20City%20Challenge%20Lessons%20Learned.pdf. Accessed October 13, 2017.  Shoup, D. (2005). The High Cost of Free Parking. Planners Press, Chicago, IL. 3
In early 2016, the Economic and Social Council in the United Nations came together to create a vision for sustainable development and “smart cities and infrastructures.” While the UN defined components of smart infrastructure such as smart buildings, smart energy, and smart mobility, the United Nations emphasized that while developing countries should be focusing on meeting increasing demands for urbanization as they move towards Smart Cities, developed countries like the United States must meet “the challenge… to maintain legacy infrastructure systems” (United Nations, 2016). In heavily urbanized states such as New Jersey or cities such as Washington D.C., the need to focus on applications that help revitalize and maintain existing assets such as roadways and bridges is made evident. In these areas which service large urban populations, the American Society of Civil Engineers reports mediocre or poor ratings for infrastructure such as roadways and bridges on its infrastructure report card (ASCE, 2017). As these assets serve as a lifeline for freight companies and commuters and will eventually function as a key component of automated technologies, the use of Smart City applications to improve asset management is important for the promotion of more complex Smart City systems. In particular, sensing vehicles are a Smart City application that should be introduced and implemented by state departments of transportation as soon as possible to help further urban smart infrastructure as well as address the challenge set forth by the United Nations.
Sensing vehicles, in the context of asset management, can take multiple forms. However, the most pertinent and critical piece of equipment typically employed by sensing vehicles is Light Detection and Ranging, commonly known as LiDAR. LiDAR is type of remote sensing that sends pulses of light as lasers to its surroundings and measures the distance to objects. Most often the technology includes Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), Global Navigation Satellite System, 3D laser scanners, photographic recording, and storage (EiJournal, 2015) which enable collection of objects and their respective locations on a particular roadway. With these capabilities, LiDAR is able to collect details about assets along roadways such as striping, signage, and general curvature features which can be processed and utilized by state or local entities. Because this technology uses laser pulses to detect objects, it is known for its high degree of resolution. Therefore, the technology has been consistently used to model topography, building structures, and geographical features.
When considering the use of LiDAR for asset management situations, the use of these devices in a widespread manner is important for creating an inventory of assets and their established conditions. The Georgia Department of Transportation spends a large amount of money having employees evaluate assets such as signage, pavements, bridges, and striping each year. These efforts which are not only costly but also extremely tedious could be effectively replaced by the use of LiDAR systems by city and state governments. Instead of having experts survey bridges or pavements once a year, these governments could have fleets of vehicles that monitor the condition of assets on a day-to-day basis as employees collect high-resolution data about signage, markings, and crack conditions as they move from maintenance site to maintenance site.
What the use of LiDAR technology and more clearly defined asset inventories means for mobility is increased opportunity for new technologies. While asset management in general is crucial for government entities looking to preserve and repair assets that are important for safety, asset management in the future is crucial for other emerging technologies such as automated vehicles. While there has been a push for automated vehicles to use LiDAR for its means of navigation and processing, as of now, cameras and image detection remain the most cost-effective and predominant methods to process the environment in front of an automated vehicle. In many cases, automated vehicles at all levels of automation rely on lane markings to identify lanes and notify the vehicle cases where lane departure could occur. In order for these technologies to work, the maintenance of striping and signage is extremely important. Through the use of LiDAR, the upkeep of assets needed for automated vehicle detection can be ensured and these technologies can be utilized to improve mobility with the improved safety and congestion technology companies anticipate.
Consider the Benefits of Mobile LiDAR for Transportation Projects. (2015, April 05). Retrieved October 13, 2017, from http://eijournal.com/print/articles/consider-the-benefits-of-mobile-lidar-for-transportation-projects
GPA: D. (n.d.). American Society of Civil Engineers. Retrieved October 13, 2017, from https://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/
United Nations (2016). Smart cities and infrastructure. (Report No. E/CN.16/2016/2). Retrieved from http://unctad.org/meetings/en/SessionalDocuments/ecn162016d2_en.pdf
There are many ways that Smart City or IoT technologies can help governments improve urban mobility. Below are listed some examples showing that Smart City/IoT Technologies can be used to improve urban mobility by easing traffic congestion, efficiently operate and manage transit systems, improve parking, and develop better walking/biking systems.
A large number of GPS sensors are used to build Intelligent IoT systems, and gather transportation and goods movement information. Such “big data” enables government to gain citywide visibility. From real-time movement information collected by GPS sensors, governments can potentially monitor a series of indexes that can reflect the overall fleet operations (e.g., corridor throughput, operating speed distribution, total energy consumption, total emissions), design and evaluate different plans, and help alleviate congestion. Imagine a scenario where a corridor is becoming congested during peak hours, the ITS professionals in government will be able to activate a ride-sharing plan and increase the cost to new travelers (especially single travelers) entering the congested corridor. The plan can be delivered immediately to travelers through communication equipment, and stimulate travelers to propose alternative travel strategies (re-routing or changing departure times) to help improve operations at a systems level. Such “big data” can also be processed locally by integration with smart traffic signals, and improve traffic flow. The local police and emergency services also benefit from sensor networks and rapidly respond to incidents.
Smart City/IoT technologies can be utilized by transit agencies to improve transit operations and efficient management. In-vehicle sensors and smart traffic signals can be coordinated to implement transit priority strategies, to ensure the transit fleet is operating on schedule, with relatively small sacrifice of general traffic delay. Sensors at bus stops/train stations can detect real-time passenger demand, which is especially important during peak commute periods or for special events. Based on demand/supply information, agencies can evaluate and decide if additional runs are needed. Another challenge is transit fleet management. Usually, a transit fleet is composed of vehicles from different manufacturing years, or even with different technologies, and thus require different maintenance strategies. IoT enables agency employees to embed maintenance/repair strategies into each vehicle. In-vehicle or depot sensors can record a vehicle’s daily operations, and monitor the up-to-date working status of vehicle equipment. For example, an automated wheel-measuring machine housed at a tram depot detects the condition of a vehicle’s wheel. The information can be automatically delivered to the fleet control center for comprehensive evaluation, and maintenance or repair can then be arranged with significant savings in cost and labor.
Parking is usually painful in large cities for both travelers and transportation managers. A study that measured traffic in a Los Angeles 15-block area for one year found that drivers drove over 950,000 miles, produced 730 tons of CO2, and used 47,000 gallons of gas just searching for parking (Lopez, 2014). Governments can help make citizens and visitors’ life easier by applying IoT technologies in smart parking. Smart sensors embedded in parking spots can gather real-time status of parking spaces - if a spot is occupied, empty, or expired. It sends this information to a data management system, which can link to a mobile application for drivers. A person can use an application to find an available parking spot and reserve it with a fee. Smarter parking could minimize traffic congestion, reduce carbon emissions and eliminate labor inefficiencies associated with parking enforcement, and such a system can fundamentally change traffic patterns and consumer behavior.
The IoT can help improve pedestrian safety. For example, one technology that can be easily implemented, has been used in Finland (LEDinside, 2016), where pedestrians, especially children and elderly, can carry a smart wireless reflector with a LED light. Detectors are equipped at crossing areas to detect the reflector. When a pedestrian is approaching a dangerous crossing, the smart reflector can be made to blink and alert drivers. This technology can potentially improve safety. In the future, this technology can possibly involve smart traffic lights, and warn a turning truck driver that a pedestrian is in the area of a crossing. In additions, sidewalks are a critical part of multi-modal transportation infrastructure, which promotes safe and easy pedestrian travel and healthy lifestyle choices. A Georgia Tech team has developed a tablet application to automatically assess sidewalk quality (Georgia Tech, 2017). Government together with researchers can engage community members and stakeholders as volunteers to collect and upload data (for example, upload sidewalk picture) throughout the region with smart phone apps, to achieve the goal of creating a comprehensive database of the City of Atlanta’s sidewalk system. The database can then be utilized for government to prioritize the sidewalk maintenance/repair. The database can also be integrated into smartphone apps to support pedestrian’s routing decisions. Such applications can help improve sidewalk conditions, promote pedestrian travel and healthy lifestyles. It can also provide increased accessibility to transit and equitable access to the public including people with physical disabilities.
Nowadays, bike sharing systems are increasingly popular in cities world-wide as a sustainable, eco-friendly and flexible transportation mode. Bikes are equipped with GPS sensors, and users can use smartphone apps to locate spots with available bikes nearby. It has been successful in Europe and Asia to serve short distance trips and the “last-mile” travel. However, the flexibility of bike sharing systems comes with challenges relating to unpredictable and dynamic demand and asymmetric usage, which frequently leads bike sharing to an unbalanced system and makes bike distribution a difficult task. IoT-integrated bike sharing systems will provide operators real-time and information about user demand and bike supplies to improve their services. For example, if bike lots experience unbalanced distribution (compared to demand), operators can implement discounted fare strategies, and encourage users to rent from spots with surplus bikes, and park in spots with potentially higher demand with less supplies.
References: Lopez, M. 2014. Right-Time Experiences: Driving Revenue with Mobile and Big Data. Wiley. ISBN: 978-1-118-84735-0. LEDinside. 2016. Smart Reflector Blinks to Improve Pedestrian Safety. Available at: http://www.ledinside.com/news/2016/1/smart_reflector_blinks_to_improves_pedestrian_safety (Accessed: 10/07/2017) Georgia Tech. 2017. Sidewalk Quality Assessment. Available at: http://transportation.ce.gatech.edu/sidewalks (Accessed: 10/07/2017)
Transportation mobility is like the blood circulation in the human body. It has to be flowing continuously; else, it will cause swelling and blockage, analogous to inflammation in human body and, it is uncomfortable. Some of the biggest challenges to mobility or free flowing traffic are congestion due to inadequate road capacity, blockages due to crashes and other vehicle stoppage events, bottlenecks due to construction, and difficulty accommodating multiple modes of transport. Smart city applications and internet of things technologies are useful means that governments can employ to manage mobility within in their existing systems.
First of any transportation management is to understand the demand and capacity. The governments should start integrating data from various existing sensors (such as street cameras, loop detectors, etc.) into single repository and use big data analytics to arrive at useful trip and traffic count related information. While such sensors exist on major urban roads, local roads also needs to have their counts recorded. The governments can use non-personal smart phone location data of the users while commuting on their roads. Besides, all weather, all time technologies such as radar can be placed at critical locations to monitor traffic counts.
Next step is to use these data to avoid congestion. Reducing start and stops is one of the keys to avoid congesting in non-crash, non-bottleneck roadway. Connected signals along with real-time traffic counts data on road can help enhance mobility in urban areas. However, the biggest hurdle of connected signals in dense urban areas is crisscrossing roadways. TO overcome this, the governments can adopt a modified form of ramp metering to keep the traffic flowing from multiple directions. According to this proposed method, especially in major roads, the vehicles should be platooned up when they travel (that is, vehicles travel in a large group such that they resemble a train of boxes along the road with spacing between them). Then, connected signals should be timed such that the time taken to cover that space will allow another vehicle platoon travelling from perpendicular direction to pass. These platoons will keep crisscrossing without affecting the flow in any direction. However, the challenge here in here is to accommodate left turning vehicles at the intersections. A solution to this is to allow a buffer spacing and time the lights accordingly such that left turning vehicles can join at the back of the platoon. The primary benefit of such platoon timing is the there is efficient flow and avoids start and stop motion of the vehicles. It will also result in huge economic saving in fuel since acceleration and breaking is the most rapid fuel consuming part while driving.
Another potential area that the governments should focus on is reducing extended closure of lanes due to construction activities, since lane closure causes bottle next in the traffic flows. Besides emergency closures, most long time closures occur due to road repairs. Such road repairs arise because the roads deteriorate over time and depending on the severity of deterioration, more time it needs for reconstruction. So monitoring the life cycle of roads and making timely small repairs is essential for improving the overall mobility. For detailed road condition data, the governments should employ 3D mapping of the roadway and pavement surface on an annual bases using laser scanners and LiDAR mounted on probe vehicles or drones. Such data not only allows faster evaluation of roadway condition, also the data can be used to evaluate the adequacy of road geometry in tandem with the count data. In addition, smart phone sensor data (accelerations, rotation) should be collected anonymously from all drivers that can be analyzed to gain useful insights on poor road conditions like potholes. Although less accurate, such sensor data when aggregated can help crudely locate where there are potholes on the road based on vertical accelerations. Potholes are traffic an important impeders because vehicles are forced to slow down at the potholes causing a disruption in traffic flow. Better management of roads using the integrated data enables timely treatment of roads that are less expensive and less intrusive, lowers traffic congestion due to extended construction time, and eventually improves mobility.
Finally, managing blockages due to crashes and other vehicle stoppage events on road. It is essential that crashes are to be avoided but in case of crash, response is the key to restoring mobility. Highly sensitive auditory sensors can be used in critical points of the city to listen to the traffic sounds and other traffic events. Based on the changes in sound frequency and intensity, traffic managers can point out the location (distance and direction of the event) and also learn about the type of emergency using machine learning algorithms. This way, they can dispatch response teams to the location immediately. This will be in addition to 911 or 511 inputs received, but expedites the response and hence reduces a few critical minutes in clearing the vehicle. It is especially useful since traffic pile up in those few critical minutes can be avoided and flow is restored, thereby enhancing the over mobility on the route.
In conclusion, the proposed technologies and applications are useful particularly for automobile users. However, the sustainable solution for each person’s mobility is better achieved through the transit. Connected, single pass, multi-mode transit in combination with the above-mentioned automobile solutions will result in enhanced mobility experience for the people. Moreover, in center of all this is data. Combining data from all the sensors and creating the data infrastructure should be one of the primary focus of the governments to make the flow of people and goods in their city smooth and continuous.
Implementation of smart technology into transportation systems relies on three pillars: transportation products (bikes, wheelchairs, shuttle busses, etc.), transportation infrastructure (roadways, parking decks,sidewalk lighting), and transportation policy. Governments are in the unique position that allows them to control and regulate parts of all three fundamental pillars, specifically infrastructure which is an integral component of a mobile city. Mobility provides connection to higher-order facilities (like freeways) and is a key part of a complete and integrated transportation system that serves medium- and long-distance trips. It is a concern for all citizens and therefore should be a main focus of transportation officials in the public-sector. For urban areas, it is especially important to promote multiple modes of transportation and governments should utilize Smart City technology in developing and maintaining the mobility of all travel, including pedestrian, cycling, light-rail, private vehicle, shared bus, etc. Smart technology that aids vibrant "complete streets" will distribute users to decrease density and benefit the mobility on all modes.
Urban environments can be highly mobile for pedestrian travel, benefiting the whole system congestion-relief, as long as the users feel safe. Visibility is a huge component of this perception of security and can be made available by smart-sensing light technology. This technology uses sensors (human movement, the opening of an exterior door, etc.) to light a path for pedestrians and bikers until they are out of range. The benefits of smart-lighting include a lower cost of energy and lower light pollution output while still creating safety along routes in non-constant use. Many of these areas are adjacent to well-lit "main paths" that would be more utilized if the complete path felt safe.
Creating desirable public transit requires a dependability within the network. For many users, this translates to minimal delays for routine maintenance which can be expedited with preventative repair. Smart technology within transit systems can be applied to constantly monitor structural elements as well as general maintenance such that any issues can be fixed before they become a large-scale repair. This might look like strain gauges on rail beams that report undue stress, that can then be remedied, before the beam yields. This would save both time and money by reducing the severity of repair and elongating the lifespan of the original infrastructure.
Another opportunity for preventative smart technology applies to congestion along roadways. An unavoidable consequence of roadway maintenance is diversion of traffic that, many times, drivers don't know to expect until they are stuck at a snail's pace on the highway. Communication and rerouting can be easily directed from intermittent electronic road signs that are connected to live congestion sensors further along the highway. Knowledge of what's ahead is a vital part of a driver's decision-making and can yield better results during special events and emergent situations. The flexibility of electronic road signs allow them to be used for congestion awareness and even congestion relief when re-marking a roadway as one-way or for specialty vehicles only.
In addition to the continued optimization of standard-procedure signal timing in urban areas, governments should use these systems, in conjunction with routing tools, to enable the immediate dispatch of emergency vehicles to their destination. This technology is already accessible in connected signals and simply requires an algorithm that clears the road ahead for emergency vehicles by giving them consecutive green lights along their path. A fast and efficient route for emergency vehicles not only aids those in need of their help, but also reduces the amount of time other vehicles along the same path need to stop for the emergency vehicle trying to pass them. Simply, the faster the fire-truck moves through; the faster the fire is put out and the faster all other vehicles can continue their trip.
The ability to widely impact transportation infrastructure also rests the responsibility of proactive implementation of new technology on governing bodies. This is especially true due to the fact that the gestation period associated with infrastructure (years) is one of the longest and therefore most difficult to implement. Furthermore, without supporting infrastructure new smart technology transportation products cannot enter the market and serve the population. If the public sector stalls on implementing IoT technology, private sector entities will create individual systems in select areas that may not be consistent or continuous across a region, creating an even greater mobility challenge for users. For example, multiple car manufacturers may produce different methods for charging-while-driving technology that pairs with the road surface. Meanwhile, their partnership with private roads may lead to the implementation of only one system (conductive instead of electric charging, for example) in certain places while the rest of the roadways may not serve that charging method. This would create totally unstandardized system that lacks consistency for users while public roads with no charging option would be labeled forever "dumb" in the era of smart technology. Conversely, if governments are proactive about the implementation of smart technology, including some of the aforementioned ideas, widespread connectivity will create a more efficient and more sustainable norm within transportation culture.