May 31 2018

Cities and States Pursue Smart Roads to Save Lives, Fuel

Localities and states partner with the private sector to pave the way for smarter streets.

Smarter, more connected cars have begun appearing on our roads, but even before widescale adoption of driverless cars, travelers could find themselves with more intelligent roadways.

Thanks to sensors embedded in pavement and other vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) technology, the Internet of Things is hitting the streets, literally, and enabling smart roads that can reduce emissions, relieve traffic and save lives.

Smart pavement is part of the growing list of intelligent transportation systems already at work in many cities, improving pedestrian safety and parking availability via sensors and other tech.

As Wi-Fi availability grows in cities and 5G sits on the horizon to offer the type of connectivity and speeds necessary to enable V2I solutions, intelligent pavement projects are becoming more widely piloted.

Sacramento, Verizon Aim to Improve Traffic with Intelligent Asphalt

Verizon’s IoT division, for instance, has launched a project around intelligent asphalt, which it thinks has the potential to significantly reduce fossil fuel emissions and save time by reducing up to 44 percent of traffic stops. The company has partnered with Sacramento, Calif., to test this theory, according to a recent video.

“By embedding sensors into the pavement as well as installing cameras on traffic lights, we will be able to study and analyze the flow of traffic. Then, we will take all of that data and use it to optimize the timing of lights so that traffic flows easier and travel times are shorter,” says Sean Harrington, vice president of Verizon Smart Communities, in the video.

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Colorado Taps Smart Pavement to Save Lives

Sacramento isn’t the only locality paving the way for smarter streets. Colorado’s Department of Transportation (CDOT) recently announced its ambition to be the first state to pilot smart pavement by striking a five-year deal with a smart pavement company to test the technology.

The aim of the project is, first and foremost, to save lives. The technology could be capable of detecting when a car suddenly leaves a road and send emergency assistance to the area, which could, essentially, save lives.

“Smart pavement can make that determination and send that information directly into a vehicle,” Peter Kozinski, director of CDOT’s RoadX division, tells the Denver Post. “Data is the new asphalt of transportation.”

The long-term goals of the project — which relies on sensors, processors and other technology embedded in the road — extend beyond accidents and reach into better road maintenance. Fast adoption could be stymied, however, by the ability to quickly roll out the sensor-laden pavement or lay concrete slabs. But even a smaller pilot could be beneficial for states seeking to investigate the life- and fuel-saving potential of smart pavement in the long run.

“It’s hard to imagine that these things are inexpensive, with all the electronics in them,” Charles Schwartz, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Maryland, tells the Denver Post. “But CDOT is a fairly sophisticated agency, and this is an interesting pilot project. We can learn a lot, even if the test is only partially successful.”

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