STATETECH: Can you give us a high-level overview of Austin's smart city initiatives?
JonMichael: Heavy civil construction projects like roadways are long-range solutions; road designs today need to be relevant and still useful in 2075. From plan to operational roadway takes a considerable amount of time, so we have to improve how we manage and operate what we have. The city’s goal now is to build it with intelligence, so it can better accommodate future disruptions.
That’s where intelligent transportation systems, intelligent infrastructure and smart mobility come in.
Austin Transportation’s work with private sector partners in our public-private partnership pilot increases the city’s knowledge and experience by working directly with new technologies. Many pilots overseen by Austin Transportation’s Smart Mobility Office since its creation in 2018 are centered on pedestrians, bicyclists and other vulnerable road users.
Most pilots include a combination of new sensing technologies at the edge, and some are enabled with artificial intelligence to support decision-making in our traffic operations, like fixed LIDAR [light detection and ranging] at crosswalks that can measure if a person will clear the intersection in time.
The city has tested other sensing solutions to better understand how small changes — like striping or dynamic illumination — can make an intersection or area safer. Parking, wayfinding and other direct customer-focused solutions have been piloted, as well multiple autonomous vehicle pilots. Right now, you can get goods and food delivered to you by an AV, or it could be an option on your next transportation network company ride.
STATETECH: What standards do you apply in setting up smart city goals, and how do you measure success?
JonMichael: The city uses existing frameworks, such as Capability Maturity Model Integration — predominately used for software development — to map and assess our current capabilities and maturity regarding whatever public need we are looking to address. That sets the baseline, against which progress is measured along the way.
The city gains a higher perspective of which public needs could be affected — positively or negatively — and other considerations for future projects and programs. The private sector partners who pilot with the city gain a better understanding of their projects’ outcomes and how their systems affect people and communities.
STATETECH: What technologies are involved in your smart city efforts? How does Austin coordinate and deploy technologies with partners?
JonMichael: Austin Transportation has assessed, partnered and piloted with several companies working in the smart city/smart infrastructure marketplace, from infrastructure, semiconductor and sensor manufacturers to major computing brands, automakers and cloud providers.
When we innovate together toward a common municipal goal, everyone learns, and we all gain experience in how we can do better for our community.
Dell and Microsoft enable much of the computing we have in government, and Cradlepoint enables secure wireless communications for some of our pilots or tests. NVIDIA enables some of the video analytic solutions we are piloting and assessing, and Netgear and Cisco supply some of the hardware in our existing communications system. In addition to enabling government software services and support, Austin Transportation is partnering with Microsoft in a pilot to evaluate hyperlocal air quality monitoring.