Virginia Department of Transportation Preparing to Use Artificial Intelligence to Predict Traffic

July 21, 2022

Officials from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) are getting ready to use artificial intelligence systems that will monitor emerging traffic conditions to predict the impacts of disruptions in Northern Virginia and the Fredericksburg metropolitan area.

This marks the first time that AI will be used to predict traffic disruptions in Virginia. 

“If the system performs well, expansion to other parts of the state will be a distinct possibility,” wrote acting director of communications for VDOT, Marshall Herman.

An agency report states that the new AI support system will improve the effectiveness of real-time integrated transportation information. Information is expected to be provided through digital message boards, 511 Virginia, and third-party applications, including Waze and Google Maps. 

Officials are hopeful that the system will reduce congestion, improve safety, mobility, and travel time, and make travel times more reliable.

“We’re not just reacting to conditions, we’re actually using real time and historic data to predict future conditions and to prepare the network,” said VDOT Chief Deputy Commissioner Cathy McGhee at a meeting of the Commonwealth Transportation Board Tuesday.

The rollout is planned as part of a broader transportation monitoring program known as the Regional Multi-Modal Mobility Program, or RM3P, that started with a proposal from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority in 2018 and has since expanded from the region down the I-95 corridor to Fredericksburg.

Staff from VDOT said the next step is to award the contract to develop the artificial intelligence-based decision support system for a rollout in 2023 and full operation by 2026. 

The tool will help both agency operations and travelers.

It will first be deployed within a single subregion of Northern Virginia and later expand to cover the whole region and the Fredericksburg area.

“We really believe that that’s the only way to manage a network like we have for Northern Virginia and metropolitan Fredericksburg because it takes all of the modes together to serve the demand in those regions,” said McGhee. “So, we’re looking for that proactive, predictive capability that RM3P gives us.” 

In 2018, the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority submitted an initial proposal to VDOT for funding the development of a region-wide transportation management system. 

Officials said the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, VDOT and Northern Virginia Transportation Authority have all been involved in the development of the program that came to be known as RM3P.

VDOT is hoping to find ways to incentivize commuters and partners to use RM3P, which is focused on improving travel disruptions, making travel times more reliable, and supporting all transportation options for travelers.

McGhee said it’s unclear what the nature of the incentives will be, but the agency has been in discussions with stakeholders including major employers about instituting staggered work hours and releases that could help even out traffic loads and public transportation demand. 

The contract for RM3P is also expected to be awarded in the coming months, McGhee said. 


Source: VDOT

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