3 States Investing in Smart Transportation

How governments stand to benefit from connected cars, buses and trains.

In the next few years, the Internet of Things will rule the roads.

Connected cars, buses and trains will be key to the future of transportation. In addition to easing traffic congestion, the technology could cut down on fossil fuel use, reduce accidents and even create jobs. It’s a technology that is top of mind for many governments. Here’s a look at three states experimenting with machine-to-machine networks and connected vehicles.

Motor City Could Become the Connected City

Michigan is still home to some of the most innovative technology in the auto industry. In Ann Arbor, just 45 minutes from Detroit, the Michigan Transportation Department and the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA) are launching the Connected Vehicle Safety Pilot Model Deployment Program.

“Vehicle-to-vehicle communication has the potential to be the ultimate game-changer in roadway safety,” says David Strickland of the NHTSA. Darren Quick describes the program on Gizmag:

Described as a “scaled-down version of a future in which all vehicles will be connected,” the model deployment, which is being conducted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) as part of a US$22 million partnership with the DoT, is designed to determine how well vehicle wireless communication technology works in real world conditions and the effectiveness of vehicle to vehicle (V2V) and vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) systems in improving road safety.

Of the 3,000 vehicles taking part in the 12-month-long model deployment, which includes cars, commercial trucks and transit vehicles, 64 will have embedded devices, around 300 will have aftermarket safety devices, and the remainder will have simple transmission-only vehicle awareness devices.

“This is definitely not your grandmother's bus.”

These are the words of Nathaniel Ford, formerly of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (Muni), in a San Francisco Chronicle article. Muni partnered with Cisco to launch Internet-connected smart buses that allow riders to access free Wi-Fi, interact with touch screens and give passengers a live map of all buses in the city.

"This is a smart bus in every way, shape and form," Newsom said. "You can download music, you can play video games. It's a bus where you are connected. It's constantly generating information about your connection to the rest of the Muni system."

A big, black steel cabinet behind the driver's seat is stuffed with gadgetry that allows laptop-toting riders to connect to the Internet. The onboard electronics also provide the wall-mounted touch screens with information on the bus's route and location, connecting routes and live information on arrival times. It also collects information about the bus and its operation that will help Muni maintain, schedule and run buses more efficiently.

Policy Rules the Roads

Nevada was the first state to pass a law allowing driverless cars. Florida and California have followed suit, creating an opportunity for innovation on their roads. Transportation regulations are tied tightly to local governments, meaning that policy will be more complex to navigate than the technology.

There are several important reasons, however, that legislators should be excited about connected and driverless cars. States that are friendly to the technology could attract companies to invest in infrastructure and jobs, and the advances will likely make their roads safer for citizens.

It’s a win-win that Florida recognizes. The state is already looking to partner with tech companies, according to WPTV of West Palm Beach, Fla.:

Driverless-car advocates say programming and manufacturing companies may consider Florida an ideal place to work in the field, since state legislators have begun addressing the issue.

Rep. Jeffrey Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, a co-sponsor of Florida's automated-vehicle law, said preparing for unmanned cars to cruise public roads could require additional signage or highway lanes to accommodate them — projects that could create jobs for Floridians.

Advocates add that local and state governments may have to invest in technology so the cars can communicate with each other and with traffic signals on the road via sensors or GPS technology.

If your city, county or state government is investing in smart transportation, let us know in the Comments.

<p>Digital Vision/Thinkstock</p>
Aug 21 2013