Two main components of becoming a Smart City are the seamless sharing of data and leveraging emerging and innovative technology.
Generally speaking, emerging technology might include developments in the electrical grid to support smart street lighting and electric vehicle charging. It might be wastewater treatment solutions to better control the flow, pressure and distribution of the city’s water. Or it might be apps that allow emergency medical technicians to perform more life-saving tasks in the field.
But more than any other improvement, it’s utilizing technology to improve the transportation network that is required to become a successful Smart City.
And when it comes to Smart City transportation, emerging mobility technologies—specifically, Automated, Connected, Electric and Shared (ACES) transportation services—have an important role to play.
Cities using emerging connected-vehicle technologies, whether through cellular or dedicated short-range communications, will be able to increase safety and eliminate up to 80% of all crash scenarios that don’t involve impaired drivers.
Vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication will improve traffic flow within the various corridors for rapid transit buses by giving them traffic-signal priority. This same type of technology also will enable eco driving, where signal phase and timing delivery within connected vehicles will allow for harmonized flow, and recognize when the signal phase is going to change so vehicles can adjust their speed to minimize stop and go.
Apps that provide real-time parking information can eliminate hunting for the perfect spot, and digital payment processes will eliminate digging for change in your cup holder. Pedestrian detection technology will increase safety for people using crosswalks, and truck platooning will enable safer and more efficient movement of freight. Finally, self-driving ride-share cars and public shuttles can employ route optimization algorithms to cover first/last miles of long commutes and provide more efficient services during off-peak hours.
But employing emerging technology comes with a caveat. Smart Cities have to make sure they’re using the technology to strategically address real needs.
That’s one of the reasons the U.S. DOT selected Columbus, Ohio, as winner of the 2016 Smart City Challenge. The city identified how its specific community needs would be served by becoming a Smart City.
For example, Columbus’ Linden neighborhood had the highest infant mortality rate in the city—and one of the highest in the U.S. In dissecting the problem, planners discovered that Linden was underserved by public transportation, which made it difficult for mothers and pregnant women to obtain the prenatal and postnatal healthcare services they required.
For communities like this, multimodal trip planning technology will soon make it simpler and faster to get from point A to B.
Universal payment systems will allow customers to submit one payment and apply it across multiple modes and providers of transportation. And smart mobility hubs will make it easier to transfer from bus to car or bike by bringing them all together in one place.
Linden is just one example of community needs that emerging mobility technologies can help address by removing unnecessary complexity and providing seamlessness in the transportation experience.
The bottom line is that to be a more mobile, forward-thinking city, it’s important to look first at the transportation needs of the residents and visitors in your community, and then seek out and leverage the most appropriate mobility solutions.
Doing this will help cities provide greater opportunity for people to connect with jobs, schools, healthcare, shopping, entertainment and more. That’s the kind of investment in the future that makes a Smart City smart.
About the author: Barbaresso is national ITS practice leader for HNTB Corp.