Anna Bentley HOW AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES, CONNECTED VEHICLES AND SMART CARS ARE TRANSFORMING U.S. TRANSPORTATION “The U.S. is a culture of cars and automobiles, perhaps more so than any other country in the world,” says John Hibbard, Director of Operations at the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT). “We’re about to have that changed at a very foundational level. ” Americans’ relationships with their cars are evolving. Technologies that years ago seemed far-fetched and decidedly sci-fi can now be found in driveways and test centers across the nation. Cars can park themselves. They can understand what you tell them. And, soon, they will be able to communicate with each other and their surroundings, changing how engineers gather, analyze and ultimatelyuse traffic data. But what do these technologies mean for the everyday driver? How will they change how we get to where we’re going? And where are we going, anyway? WHAT ARE THEY? Though these three technologies - autonomous vehicles, connected vehicles and “smart cars” - may seem similar, there are fundamental differences between each, mainly centering around who is in control of the vehicle. “An autonomous vehicle application is one where the driver does not make the decisions - the car makes the decisions for the driver. In contrast, with connected vehicle technologies, the vehicle warns the driver that there is a potential collision and then the driver reacts,” explains Suzanne Murtha, a Project Director at Atkins focusing on connected and automated vehicle program development. The third type of vehicle is often also called a connected vehicle, but that’s a bit of a misnomer - “smart car” is more accurate. True connected vehicles are able to communicate with other cars and with their surrounding infrastructure through the Federal Communications Commission-mandated 5.9-GHz band. Smart cars, on the other hand, are often equipped with internet connectivity, serving as 4G LTE hotspots. They can stream music, send and receive text messages and navigate through internet-based, built-in navigation systems. And then there are cars that combine some of these technologies, like smart cars that can also self-park or brake automatically when a crash is imminent; these are autonomous features because they don’t require driver input, but the car itself is not autonomous. And though automakers have been developing connected vehicle technology for more than a decade, the 2017 Cadillac CTS sedan - set to hit dealerships this fall - will be the first car equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle connectivity in the U.S. market. “There’s a lot of connectivity already,” says Murtha. “But what there is not a lot of already is the mandated kind of connectivity, which has a much higher reliability, a much higher security, a much lower latency and a much faster way of communicating from vehicle to vehicle. We don’t anticipate a mandate until later this year.” This mandate will come from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) and its formal guidance has been highly anticipated for years. When released, it will set national standards for how connected vehicles should communicate with each other and roadway devices - setting the stage for an accelerated rollout of new, truly connected vehicles from all major automakers. EVERYDAY IMPACTS NHTSA reported 6.1 million traffic accidents in 2014. These accidents resulted in 2.3 million injuries and more than 32,000 fatalities — 1,164 in Georgia alone. Moreover, a July 2015 McKinsey & Company report cited the annual cost of traffic accidents in the U.S. in 2012 as $212 billion, with eight people hospitalized and 100 treated in emergency rooms for each person killed in traffic accidents. Even with the myriad of safety features available today, cars are still dangerous machines that cost the state millions - and, too many times, costs its citizens even more. By a landslide, the biggest impact of connected vehicle technology is increased safety. “With connected vehicles, our estimate is that we can cut fatalities by roughly 82 percent, and that’s a huge number,” says Murtha. “There aren’t many other technologies that anyone has looked at that can reduce fatalities in such a significant wayas connected vehicles.” The idea is that if vehicles can talk to each other, they can minimize the human aspect of driving: the guessing, the misdirected attention, the dangerous misjudgments and the split-second decision-making. They can seamlessly transfer data back and forth about their positions, their speed and sudden movements like braking or swerving and alert drivers about hazards that they might not have otherwise seen. As the U.S. Department of Transportation champions: “we used to help people survive crashes; now we can help them avoid crashes altogether.” But there are other practical applications as well. In Georgia, GDOT has been assessing the collection and application of connected vehicle data for about six months, says Hibbard: “We are close to the end of an effort to frankly figure out what we would want to do with connected vehicle data and where it would make the most sense to collect that data, much less provide data back out to cars.” “We see tremendous benefits, especially safety benefits, to the freight/ commercial vehicle industry,” he says. Connected vehicle data could allow GDOT to push information into freight vehicles about upcoming congestion or projected wait times at the state’s ports, allowing them to choose alternative routes or better time their activities. This data could be used to improve traffic flow on surface streets, as well. Imagine a freight truck stopped at a red light on a hilly, busy road: When the light turns green, it’s going to take that truck a while to get moving, slowing the flow of traffic behind it. With vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, though, traffic signals could be adjusted to turn green earlier or stay green longer to help get those large vehicles through intersections, alleviating delays and smoothing traffic flow. But how hard would it be to get these roadside receivers in place on Georgia’s roads? Not too difficult, actually, says Hibbard. Because of the state’s investment in Georgia NaviGAtor, the necessary infrastructure and fiber optic cable are already in place alongside some of the state’s most heavily traveled corridors, which speeds up implementation and reduces the cost. PERSONALLY CONNECTED While connected vehicle technology sees the car as the ultimate source of data, there is another equally valuable source that can be found in nearly every car on the road today: the drivers themselves. Millions of drivers generate an astounding amount of traffic data each day, right from the palm of their hands. Smartphones and their many traffic and navigation apps have the potential to transform any car into a smart car - regardless of its make, model or age. And some of these apps, like Google’s Waze, have started sharing this user-generated traffic data with communities. Launched in October 2013, Waze’s Connected Citizens program creates a two-way partnership with local and state governments, transportation departments and countries around the world to ultimately create the most reliable, detailed real-time traffic maps. “The reason why we share our data is because we think it’s an extension of our contract with our users,” explains Paige Fitzgerald, Connected Citizens’ Program Manager. “When a user reports a pothole or even a major five-car pileup, we think it makes sense for that data to go to the government entity that can address those issues in real time.” Johns Creek, a fast-growing suburb northeast of Atlanta, became the first Connected Citizens partner in Georgia in August 2015. Johns Creek shares information about planned road closures, construction and special events with Waze. In return, Waze shares real-time slowdown information and user-reported incidents, which can include accidents, traffic jams, objects on the road, cars on the shoulder and inclement weather. “We’re using the data to try to visualize and reinforce our understanding of what’s really happening on the roads at certain times of day,” says Tom Udell, P.E., Johns Creek’s Deputy Director of Traffic. “The data gives us the opportunity to dig in and use all of our ITS systems - our closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras - and start looking to see what’s causing that congestion; it’s something that the traffic team can use that doesn’t cost us anything.” Wonder how reliable user-generated incident reporting can be? A Waze partner in Sydney performed an independent analysis of Waze data and found that 15 percent of the time, Waze users reported accidents 10 minutes or more before those crashes were called into 911, says Fitzgerald. “We’re talking about significant time saving in finding out what’s happening on the roads, identifying which types of vehicles need to go serve that incident and sending out the necessary vehicles,” she says. Cities and counties worldwide are also finding innovative uses for this user-generated information. The City of Boston one of the first Connected Citizens partners, uses data about cars parked on the shoulder to pinpoint areas of the city that suffer the most double-parking. And Los Angeles County is taking advantage of in-app advertisements: When users hit traffic relating to known roadside construction, Los Angeles County- sponsored advertisements pop up encouraging drivers to tap to learn more about construction projects in the area, giving the County a mobile means for sharing news with its community. On the granular level, it can be hard to quantify the impact of Waze data specifically. “It impacts traffic in that it lets us do a better job of managing what we have,” says Nick O’Day, GIS Manager for Johns Creek. “It’s kind of a day-to-day battle. We’re trying to do the best we can to manage the system in the best way possible. This gives us one more tool to manage that system, along with our traffic signal system and CCTV cameras. The more information we have, the better choices people can make and the better decisions we can put out on the street to try to make everybody’s drive better.” A SHIFTING LANDSCAPE As reported in The Atlantic, Time and Money magazines, among others, fewer people are getting driver’s licenses (though the reasons for this trend are up for debate). Ride-sharing companies, such as Uber, and car-sharing companies, like Lyft, have disrupted the traditional transportation model, changing how many Americans view car ownership. They’ve also seemed to change how traditional car manufacturers see cars, as GM announced a partnership with Lyft earlier this year to develop a national network of autonomous vehicles. In doing so, it joined a growing legion of companies eyeing autonomous fleets - either rumored or confirmed - including Uber, Apple and Google. The rise of ride-sharing services and fully autonomous fleets of the future have many people adjusting their opinions on car ownership. No longer is it seen as a necessity; now, for some, it’s a nonstarter. Why pay to own, maintain, insure and operate a car that sits unused 96 percent of the time, as reported by the Economist last summer, when you could instead only pay when you need a ride? What will the future of car ownership look like, and how will all of these pieces fit together? It’s still up for debate, says Murtha, but these are likely roads we’ll travel down: “I think that what happens is there’s a two-track development. You’re going to see traditional automotive OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) developing cars with increasing automated applications on them. “At the same time, concurrently developing we’re going to see the Apples, the Googles and Uber developing their own vehicles that don’t have steering wheels or brakes. So you’ll have two different trajectories.” Will the cars of the future be fully autonomous, or will they be a hybrid featuring connected capabilities with increasing autonomous features? Will there be both concurrently, with some choosing to drive their own cars and others opting to forego driving entirely? What will the public be most comfortable accepting? What will our governments and infrastructure be capable of fully supporting? We know, thanks to Google’s exhaustive autonomous vehicle testing program in California, that autonomous vehicles work best with clearly lined and marked streets. People do, too, so optimizing road markings is an easy adjustment. But what other road design features could they change? Could lanes become narrower, since autonomous vehicles won’t require as much space between them as human-helmed automobiles? These are just a few of the questions engineers face, and the truth is that no one can really say what our cars - or our roads, or even our parking lots - will look like in 20 years. “The time between now and then is a transition time, and it’s a messy time,” says Hibbard. “It’s messy in terms of we’re going to have different cars promising different things and offering different things in different ways. We’re going to have governments offering regulation sometimes well thought out, sometimes haphazardly thought out, sometimes rethought and re-envisioned.” “It’s not just transportation; in fact, it’s cultural,” he continues. “The impacts on all of us stand to be massive.”
Published by American Council of Engineering Companies of Georgia. View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://www.bluetoad.com/article/Data-Driven/2439772/295803/article.html.