The U.S. and the U.K.: Differences Lead to Learning Opportunities for Better Traffic Management

The transportation industry varies from country to country, and each system uses devices and systems differently, says Alistair Gollop, Technology Services Engineering Lead for Mott MacDonald. But the main point he wanted to make at INTERSECT17, is that we can learn from these differences in the overall goal to improve the efficiency of moving people and goods.

Having experienced traffic signal technology around the world, he sees that the United Kingdom (U.K.) often has difficulties because of constraints of history and space. This made them use signaling more flexibly. The United States has more space and less historical planning issues, which has led to the creation of much larger intersections, yet the parameters for them have been more fixed. Gollop says there is an opportunity for the U.S. to use the idea of flexible signaling like the U.K to get more throughput for the intersection but it would require Traffic Management Centers (TMCs) to use more holistic management systems.

He said many U.S. TMCs use multiple systems for different detection uses which requires more staff management and expertise. This current setup may not maximize the potential of each system, but if a city were to put it through a common master database that calculated all of the inputs and then delivered options to traffic managers, they would be able to make better decisions to alleviate traffic problems.

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Security Prepping for a CV/CAV Future

The Intelligent Transportation industry continues to push forward into uncharted territory as professionals plan to implement and deploy connected and autonomous vehicles. It’s an exciting time if you think about the potential for saving 40,000 people a year with these lifesaving technologies, however, the panel all agreed, that everyone’s attention is on how to make these vehicles more cyber secure.

With recent headlines focused on semi and autonomous vehicles crashing, even though it’s often as the result of human error, legislators and the media are hyper focused on making these vehicles safe from hacking. Jason Goldman, Vice President of External Affairs & Stakeholder Engagement for the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America) said the number one issue he deals with on all fronts are fears of cybersecurity, but a big question is how we help communities stay ahead of this growing threat.

Will Summerlin, Chief Executive Officer of Pinn, said that current infrastructure and legacy systems were not always built with security in mind and that the Internet was built to be an open way to communicate, but that allows bad actors to infiltrate the systems. He believes that we are at a unique point in time where we can build both the car and the infrastructure that connects to it from the ground up with security as the main priority.

Cars right now are horribly exposed since the controller area network (CAN) bus was made externally accessible in 1997, says Dr. Robert Bridges, a Research Mathematician that works on vehicle security research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. This is how high-profile professional security hackers have tested out their theories in the public spotlight. But he says data science can be used to help mitigate security risks by leveraging signals that are specific to each car and potentially installing fixed protocols into the vehicles.

Bryan Wells, Engineering Senior Manager at DENSO, stated that we need to be borrowing technologies from other industries like security certificates that banks use to keep money transactions safe. As we build these CAV systems we should look at predictive diagnostics as well as redundant systems that can detect when things are slightly off, and if that occurs, then a car can be placed into a certain standard mode that automatically seeks safety.

Summerlin followed that the parallel example is the aviation industry where all planes currently have redundant systems. As of right now, he isn’t aware of any catastrophic hacks to date, but because of past accidents, the airline industry has been heavily regulated by government which makes it horribly expensive.

While the costs of these connected and autonomous vehicle technologies and securities are very high now, over time, the panel agreed that they will come down. However, it still remains to be seen how much cost the insurance industry, OEMs and general public will be willing to bear for this ultimate safety.

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The Importance of Policy as the Next Iteration of Transportation Evolves

Day 3 at INTERSECT17 focused on the future of transportation. In his morning keynote address, former Congressman Bob Walker spoke extensively about the importance of policy as the next iteration of transportation evolves. “Nowhere is it more important than in the arena of transportation. Policy has to reflect and it’s not doing so at the present time,” he said. “The regulatory structure in this time of change retards technology rather than advancing it and government is incapable of moving at the speed of technology.” Walker who was hugely influential as the chairman of the U.S. House Science Committee sees a confluence of technologies that all deserve space in the same conversation. “Drones are clearly having an impact. They were toys and now we understand their military and retail applications,” he said. “What happens when they fly passengers? In Dubai, they’re doing it now.”

Walker listed the concepts that are steps away from becoming transportation realities from the possibility of a Hyperloop trip at hundreds of miles per hour to solid state batteries that promise to extend electric vehicle range while recharging in one minute, developments are loaded with promise but also come at a cost. He highlighted the concept of autonomous modules that could one day soon, contribute to declining personal vehicle ownership. “But what about the people who are invested in parking garages?” he said. Walker suggested that people who will inevitably be displaced by the new economy will adapt, developing new skills in line with the requirements of new technologies.

Chairman Walker who is on the board of Space Adventures and chairs the advisory board of The Alliance for Transportation Innovation says that technical advancement will be an international barometer moving forward. “The technologies of the future are going to define that future and those who take the lead on it are going to win,” he said.

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Should the Best Idea Win if it’s Not Fair?

It’s a controversial and rarely asked question in intelligent transportation. Should the best idea win if it’s not fair?

In a discussion on diversity held at INTERSECT17, panelists and audience members debated the issue through the lens of service delivery and fairness, particularly in disadvantaged communities. GRIDSMART Founder and CEO Bill Malkes, who moderated the discussion, asked panelists to consider his hometown of Detroit where there hasn’t been a full-service grocery store in decades pointing out that mobility is huge issue. “It’s also one of the most-unhealthy cities,” he said asking the question, who if anyone, needs to pay to level the field.

Greg Dotson, Engineering Manager at Neel Schaffer suggested that we all have an obligation to be inclusive. “At least invite the disadvantaged to the table,” he said. “There are a lot of barriers to be overcome.” The concern of course, is that underserved communities and demographic groups don’t have the financial means to control their own mobility destiny. Disadvantaged and elderly residents are at risk of being forgotten as the future of transportation and transit evolves.

Tennessee Department of Transportation Deputy Commissioner, Toks Omishakin answered the question by saying, “yes. The best idea should win, but “only if there’s an unwavering commitment to fairness and equity down the line.”

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Accuracy is Key to the Multi-Modal Future

Every day brings a new advancement in the Intelligent Transportation industry, and with the growing use of shared mobility and an increase in different modes of transportation, consumers are beginning to take full advantage of their options.

Tarik Hammadou, CEO of VIMOC Technologies, says that there is a paradigm shift quickly coming to transportation that will move us from an auto-driven world to a multi-modal focused structure which will put a great deal of stress on the existing system. Because of this, we will need to be thinking ahead and begin moving away from one-dimensional data that is imprecise to multiple streams of highly accurate data that will need to be calculated in real-time at the edge of the cloud. Hammadou said that as we move toward autonomous vehicles, this accuracy will be key to getting to the next step.

VIMOC Technologies is a leader in creating Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions at the edge of the network. In partnership with UCLA, they recently deployed their AI-enabled deep learning Rosella™ Platform that is providing real-time, accurate information on the university’s heavily trafficked Gateway Plaza loop.

UCLA is currently in the full-throws of experiencing this multi-modal revolution and sees 68,000 ride-hailing stops a week, creating massive traffic-flow challenges on campus. Embracing this reality, the new system visually detects and classifies different transportation modes including cars, buses, bicycles and pedestrians allowing them to quickly identify problems that can quickly be resolved with soft enforcement. It’s an innovative approach that makes sure the curb space in the loop area will be managed effectively and improves the overall user experience.

This exciting partnership has allowed VIMOC to validate it’s new and effective approach to managing multi-modal traffic on arguably one of the busiest college campuses in California. Hammadou says that giving these operators real-time and highly accurate information allows them to make improvements to existing structures and also change transportation behavior.

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