Connecting Cars and Everything Else

By Roger Lanctot, Director of Automotive Connected Mobility for Strategy Analytics

Infrastructure is at the heart of the debate over the adoption and deployment of 802.11p-based V2X technology, otherwise referred to as dedicated short-range communications or DSRC, vs. delivering the same or superior value proposition via cellular-based C-V2X or 5G technology. While in-vehicle deployments may be the ultimate goal, infrastructure installations are seen as producing an immediate value proposition.

It is for this reason that the U.S. Department of Transportation and European regulators have funded and promoted infrastructure projects including, or even requiring, DSRC. While some local transportation authorities have welcomed these investments, and various test corridors have been installed as a result, including highway segments and batches of traffic signals, a backlash has grown among some local DOTs in states such as Virginia, my home state, against DSRC — which is seen as an expensive distraction with no future relevance.

While it is true that a handful of U.S. state DOTs have expressed support for DSRC, even representatives of the State of Michigan, an otherwise supportive geography, have noted that the handful of existing DSRC-enabled intersections operate in isolation from any networks and stand as an island or, more accurately, a technology cul-de-sac. At the heart of the resistance and skepticism toward DSRC among state DOTs is the perceived need for a fully networked solution for enabling V2X.

Those concerns were confronted and addressed head-on in comments made by AT&T at the recent gathering of the 5G Automotive Association in Washington, D.C. The speaker noted AT&T’s history of infrastructure investments:

  • “AT&T invested more than $200 billion in capital in our U.S. networks over the past 10 years.”
  • 2018: “Capital expenditures approaching $25 billion; $23 billion net of expected FirstNet reimbursements and inclusive of $1 billion incremental tax reform investment.”

The speaker further noted the wireless industry’s plans to “densify” the mobile network infrastructure with more than 770,000 new small cells between 2018 and 2026 in preparation for 5G to support a range of new usage scenarios including:

  • Increased capacity,
  • Supporting hyper-local deployment, and
  • Higher bandwidth via point-to-point connections (including mmWave).

Only wireless carriers have the financial bandwidth and commercial motivations to support the infrastructure deployment necessary to deliver the life-saving and market-transforming capacity necessary to realize the complete vision of V2X technology encompassing vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-infrastructure, and vehicle-to-pedestrian scenarios. The sigh of relief expressed by DOT representatives in the room at hearing AT&T’s words was palpable. The path to V2X clearly flows from the existing wireless infrastructure.

To read more articles from the Summer 2018 edition of #talkITS, subscribe online here

Big Data and ITS

By Daniel Benhammou, President & CEO of Acyclica

Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) is the present and future of transportation management in the U.S. and around the world. With spending expected to exceed $72 billion annually by 2022, the ITS market is well-established and on the verge of a significant expansion.

Data is the lifeblood of ITS. The more accurate, timely, and complete the data, the more precisely ITS-based management technologies function. While ITS itself is not new, we are at the dawn of an exciting era where the full capability of ITS devices is being explored. The emergence of cloud computing and the shift in thinking about the Internet of Things has led to a data revolution in ITS where legacy devices are being transformed from a single function device to a real-time data stream yielding new possibilities which were never imagined when the products were conceived.

As public agencies grapple with the petabytes of data, smart city initiatives have been taking shape, in large part fueled by the explosion of data from ITS. Why does ITS have such a disproportionate impact on the ideas of Smart Cities? The answer is quite simple: cities are the fabric of our modern civilization, woven by the threads of commerce and human interaction. ITS is about moving people and things more efficiently and safely.

An encouraging trend of collaboration has emerged when considering the massive amounts of data which are now flooding traffic operation centers. The collaborative nature has already started paying dividends with regards to quantifying the performance of traffic networks. The next step has even more promise with the ability to reduce congestion, improve safety, and, ultimately, save lives.

One specific application demonstrating the above case can be found in the data fusion of combining stop bar detection information together with signal phasing data. In a recent study, data was examined at a series of intersections to determine, to the millisecond, when vehicles were arriving and departing the stop bar. Combining this data with the signal phasing information, it was possible to determine if queues were being adequately cleared or if platoons (or individual) vehicles were traversing the intersection as the signal changed from green to yellow and, in some cases, yellow to red. A disturbing realization was captured by recognizing the high degree of vehicles which were running red lights as evidenced by the data. Prior to the deployment of advanced data collection technology, quantifying the number of red light running events at an intersection was not possible without a manual survey or a red light running camera which may not be legal in all jurisdictions. Collecting this information highlighted a clear issue impacting traffic and public safety.

In order to determine possible means of mitigating the risk to public safety, high-resolution travel-time data was compiled on an intersection-to-intersection level. The travel-time distribution provided ample evidence of offsets which did not account for the actual flow of traffic but had been calculated solely based on traffic models. Adjusting the offsets based on real-world conditions, provided a simple means of optimizing the traffic flow so that a majority of vehicles could maintain progression. Furthermore, the city was able to determine exactly when and the duration of various traffic patterns due to the continuous data collection thereby reducing congestion and improving public safety.

As ITS technology becomes more ubiquitous, the applications are limitless. The technology which is currently being developed and implemented by technology leaders is laying a foundation for the connected and autonomous world of the future. While a fully-autonomous society holds promise for a future vision-zero Smart City, the ITS investments that are being made today pay immediate dividends.

To read more articles from the Summer 2018 edition of #talkITS, subscribe online here

Digging In The Dirt

By Kevin Borras, Editor-in-chief of Thinking Cities and Thinking Highways

For as long as anyone can remember there’s been a degree of healthy competition between the U.S. and Europe, particularly with the UK, in terms of “who’s best” or “who’s most advanced.” Name a subject and you can start a discussion about which side of the Atlantic is doing it better — and it’s entirely unheard of that facts and actual experiences aren’t even remotely part of the equation.

Let’s take two examples: a neighbour of mine recently bought a Chrysler 300C. He’d barely parked it and clambered his way out of the driver’s door when he was descended upon by the menfolk of the three adjoining houses. “Nice colour,” said one, “and it’s alright for going in a straight line…” I knew, and Mr. 300C knew, what was coming next. “But it’s American, isn’t it? They don’t really do corners.” It transpired after a light grilling that this specific neighbour had not a) ever driven an American car, b) ever driven in the U.S., nor c) ever been to the U.S. But his point was clear (he drives an Audi): European cars are better than American cars. “We” (oh the irony) do it better.

Now take an experience I had in Florida last year. I had eaten a very good meal and complimented the waiter on the excellence of the food.

Noticing my accent, the waiter asked me where I was from. “Oh, no wonder you liked the food here,” he retorted. “I hear the food in England is terrible.” You can guess the rest. He had never been to the UK and other than “fish n’ chips” couldn’t name one “typically English” meal. His point was also clear. “Our” food is better than yours. I didn’t bother telling him about the array of Michelin-starred restaurants we have on our shores, but his assumption was no worse than my neighbour’s about American cars. We think that we do things better, whoever we are.

Solving The Puzzle

This, however, is not what this article is setting out to do. There are numerous cities of all sizes, populations, importance, and topography all across Europe that are in the midst of implementing an equally wide variety of smart city projects and programs. All of them are doing so with the aim of solving a problem with technology. Many of the problems are very similar (congestion, for example) and many of the solutions are very similar, but how the cities are going about implementing those solutions is where the interest lies. Some are implementing cutting-edge technological solutions; some are making “smart investments” and others are utilising the benefits of participating in European Commission research projects.

One good example of the latter approach is the city of Graz in Austria. Two main challenges that Graz, where the downtown area is a UNESCO World Heritage center, currently faces are air pollution and road congestion. The city is located in a topographic basin, meaning that its further development can extend towards the South along the Mur River or, preferably, happen through a substantial qualitative densification of the building plan. This basin situation does not only affect land use: the surrounding mountains imprison the particles emitted by the various industries based in the urban area of Graz, domestic heating, and the combustion engines in transit on the roads.

However, the mobility share of private cars has remained stagnant over the last few years, mostly because more people are moving to the outskirts of the city, where public transport service is not as readily available as it is in the center. The city administration is currently in a “reflection phase” about policies and tools with the aim of drastically reducing air emissions.

But individual mobility is not the only cause for Graz’s congestion and pollution. “As with every other city it needs a constant flow of vehicles to assure its logistical functions: waste collection, street cleaning, and deliveries of all kinds: goods delivered to shops, food, and private orders,” says Christian Nußmüller, Head of the EU-Unit of the City of Graz. “This constant circulation makes a few questions rise: is the current use of trucks and minivans efficient? How could we avoid peaks of delivery vehicles blocking entire areas, such as the central pedestrian zone at certain hours?”

Enter the trans-European NOVELOG Project that aims to address these questions by enabling better knowledge and understanding of urban freight distribution and service trips in order for cities to implement effective and sustainable policies and measures and facilitate stakeholder collaboration for sustainable city logistics. Over the last three years, the project has focused on strengthening the capacity of local authorities and stakeholders regarding the elaboration and implementation of sustainable urban mobility policies. In the pilot cities, test measures were deployed at a small scale, while case study cities assessed ongoing measures. All the urban freight transport measures considered by the projects pertain to two main cluster categories: administrative and regulatory schemes and incentives, and cooperative logistics.

The NOVELOG project has paved the way for sustainable city logistics in Graz. The cooperation between cities across Europe has raised awareness among the administration of the City of Graz and its partners about a topic that affects virtually every city in the developed world. The case studies were essential in bringing forward elements that were replicable in Graz. The city has already planned the implementation of a smart logistics locker system in its new Smart City district and discussions have started with the relevant partners about the development and implementation of a logistics micro-hub next to the city center.

Procure For All Ills

Another way in which cities are tackling implementation issues, where projects are more than merely two years of worthy but ultimately fruitless research, is through the process of smart procurement. Smart city procurement expert David Bonn says that it all boils down to smart thinking, above and beyond smart- anything else.

“In today’s Smart City environment, many clients recognize that they can’t procure in the way they have in the past and that they need the help of the suppliers to help formulate their ideas as to what is possible. Frequently this is referred to as going on the ‘Smart City journey’ together. You will see and hear many clients talking about ‘collaborative,’ ‘partnership,’ ‘innovation-driven,’ ‘risk-sharing’ approaches to delivering contracts. All of these are sensible approaches and ones generally welcomed by suppliers and can deliver very successful outcomes. So why is there reservation in adopting them much more widely? A simple answer — Terms & Conditions!”

Talking about his experiences in Europe and more recently in Australia, Bonn stresses that this is an approach that could, and in fact should, be adopted globally.

“Innovation is a key element in the successful delivery of Smart City solutions and is the development or delivery of what is a new or significantly improved product, process, or service. Innovation can be linked to performance and growth through improvements in efficiency, productivity, quality, faster response times, and so on. Innovation can also involve both the creation of entirely new knowledge, as well as the diffusion of existing knowledge. Innovative solutions are therefore new and better solutions to meet the evolved needs of today’s environment. In public procurement,” he concludes, “seeking innovative solutions can be the seeking of a new product, process, or service or an improved approach to the delivery of the service. In essence, it’s about purchasing new, better, and more efficient solutions in a new way — and therein lies the challenge.”

A Change For The Good(s)

A city that is facing increasing levels of congestion and, therefore pollution, is Barcelona. The city authorities took on board the damning facts and figures that showed that urban logistics was one of the main causes of the doubly damaging problems and decided upon a novel approach — microdistribution for the onerous last-mile deliveries. The solution uses electric cargo bikes as they are widely recognised as being the more suitable vehicle for small shipments as they improve delivery operations in pedestrian areas where conventional vehicles have limited access.

The microdistribution concept was introduced in the city in three phases. The first phase is referred to as the subsidy approach and saw a collaboration between the Municipality and the cargo-bike start-up company vanAPEDAL. The pilot promoted a shared cargo-bike service. This achieved some success in breaking the logistics chain, with more than half a dozen shippers taking part. It enabled vanAPEDAL to establish some new exclusive cargo-bike services, and it confirmed this latter service as the one that shipper companies prefer.

A second phase of microdistribution development saw the Municipality working within the framework of the aforementioned NOVELOG project which had as its primary objective the development of tools to assist cities in the process of implementing measures to reduce the impact of the last mile deliveries and to provide guidance. A pilot test was carried out in this project, where the idea was to reduce the costs that Last-Mile Cargo-trike operators (LMO) face without using a subsidy to intervene in the market. Thus, the Municipality cedes (in a concession model) off-street space so that the Last Mile Operator avoids paying the rental of the space and the overnight parking of the cargo-bikes. In exchange, the LMO provides data to the Municipality and assumes the compromise to be a neutral operator: this means working with any carrier requesting their services. The data and knowledge generated are then used by the city to improve its services and possibly extending the model to other areas.

Barcelona has been quite honest in reporting that the scheme hasn’t been as universally successful as it had originally hoped, due in part to the location of the distribution platforms, but this is a prime example of a city that is prepared to think outside of the traditional box and get its hands dirty, as it were.

The same with Graz — a non-traditional approach to solving a traditional problem is always going to have a chance of coming off. Cities that naturally think “no one has ever done it this way before and there must be a good reason for that” are the ones that will, more than likely, never solve their problems and indeed may just add to them. David Bonn’s plea for smart thinking in terms of procurement is also advice to be heeded — if it works in Europe then there’s no conventional thinking to suggest that it won’t work in Tennessee or Oregon.

To read more articles from the Summer 2018 edition of #talkITS, subscribe online here

Why You Should Hire More Entitled Millennials

By Gabrielle Bosché, Founder and President of The Millennial Solution

If you’re a Millennial, you may want to keep it to yourself.

That is, if you even consider yourself a Millennial. A recent study found that only 40% of adults under 36 years old would consider themselves part of the “Millennial generation,” while another 33% — mostly older Millennials — consider themselves part of the next older cohort, Generation X.

It certainly isn’t a surprise. A quick online search yields thousands of articles on how to deal with, hire, or fire America’s largest generation. And the most commonly searched term along with Millennials? Entitlement.

As someone who has studied Millennial motivation for over 11 years, I have discovered this to be true: it is mismanaged expectations, not entitlement that is stalling Millennial advancement.

Entitlement is situational. I often share this simple story to rooms full of executives and managers. If the HVAC unit were to stop working on the hottest day in July, they would feel entitled to air conditioning. Say those same executives were to meet in an isolated village in the Sahara Desert—unlikely, but roll with it. If they began complaining about the absence of cool air in a community with limited access to electricity, they would certainly come across as entitled.

It is not the expectation that makes someone entitled. It is whether those expectations are set in reality.

The connection between employer and employee has changed drastically. For Millennials, employment is a relationship of convenience rather than a lifelong commitment.

Ken Julian is the Senior Vice President of Human Resources at THOR Industries, Inc. According to Julian, “Entitlement is driven by a desire for more information and feedback. Management and leadership perceive this desire as the easy way up and easy way out.”

If you ask Millennials if their generation is entitled, they may agree with you. And that may not be a bad thing for you or your organization.

In a 2015 Pew Survey, Millennials are more likely than other generations to criticize their generation. Nearly 60% consider their peers “self-absorbed,” compared with 30% among Gen Xers, and 20% of Boomers. One-half of Millennial respondents said their generation is wasteful and almost as many would say Millennials are greedy.

Discussing Millennial entitlement with Millennials leads to powerful conversations around communication, work ethic, and perception.

Wright Dickerson is a Millennial Human Resources Specialist at Acuity Brands. He explained Millennials move faster, adapt quicker, and are the best opportunity for growth within any industry. However, he admits that Millennials need to work on their personal brand.

Dickerson defended the entitlement claim, “We come into the workforce expecting to make a big splash. We’re not entitled… We come into the workforce not realizing [how we come across].”

Yadnesh Gotey is also a Millennial. The Supply Chain Engineer at University of Southern California shared, “Our generation takes some things for granted and want things by default — regarding culture, work environment, and whatnot. That can be perceived as entitlement.”

But when you ask him to give his peers advice, Gotey explained, “I don’t think Millennials are a threat. I think we bring a huge variety of experience and unique, highly educated skillsets.”

By calling Millennials entitled, it opens up a conversation around what makes this generation unique. Managers who are able to ask and answer questions on professional expectations are more likely to keep their Millennials.

To read more articles from the Summer 2018 edition of #talkITS, subscribe online here

Radical Neighborliness in the Rust Belt

By Drew Philp, Author of A $500 House in Detroit: Rebuilding an Abandoned Home and an American City

With spring blooming in Detroit, the wildflowers are about to return to the Motor City.

Ten years ago, I bought an abandoned house in the East side of Detroit. The neighborhood, Poletown, was so empty it was nearly rural, and the house had been abandoned for at least ten years: It had no windows, no plumbing, and no electricity, sat on a crumbling foundation, and was filled with 10,000 pounds of trash, including the better part of a Dodge Caravan cut into chunks with a reciprocating saw.

With the help of my neighbors — Detroit, as I would come to find, wasn’t as abandoned as I’d been led to believe — I built the wan structure into my home.

People don’t often associate wildflowers with “the city that put the world on wheels,” and they likely don’t associate Detroit with “radical neighborliness” either. I can assure you, this too grows in Detroit. While building my house over the last decade, I’ve found radical neighborliness underlying nearly anything positive in the community. In the absence of little constructive outside attention over the last 30 years, a radical sense of what it means to be a neighbor bloomed in Detroit.

But there’s one area in which it is glaringly absent. As you may have heard, Detroit is changing: growing, shifting, “coming back,” or “having a renaissance,” even — which is true. What isn’t true is that this renaissance is making it to most Detroiters, or even many of them. One in seven households in the city has had their water shut off, in what the United Nations has called a “violation of human rights.” And one in three — think about this — one in three homes has been foreclosed over the last few years. One in three is not a renaissance.

Chief among the reasons for this uneven, unconscionable perhaps, progress is lack of effective public transportation.

In Motown, nearly one in four households does not own a car, and those that do pay the highest insurance premiums in the United States. Detroit is also the largest, and perhaps the only, major metropolitan area without comprehensive regional public transportation. The transportation within the city is also, frankly, abysmal, with Slate calling it “America’s worst transit system.”

The number one reason for this is quite obvious, yet still a dirty secret: Detroit is the most racially segregated metro area in the country. Other cities in the Rust Belt are not far behind. While proposals for comprehensive public transport have been floated more than 20 times over the last couple of decades in the Motor City, they have failed each time owing largely to an often unspoken racial animosity.

The economic costs are obvious — despite an incentive package reported to be in the billions of dollars, Detroit was passed over by Amazon to locate its new campus here, owing at least in part to lack of transportation — but the social costs are harder to calculate.

For example, many parts of Detroit and cities like it are “food deserts,” areas without access to healthy food, obviously compounded by transit. Detroit is, year to year, often the most obese city in the United States. The lack of transit also contributes to unemployment — with some estimates reaching as high as 50 percent when counting those that have stopped looking for work.

These maladies, in part rooted in lack of transit, eventually compound into increased medical bills, and lack of access to jobs, which quickly spiral into staggering numbers like a city the size of Buffalo, New York being evicted from Detroit.

But there is hope: With the renewed interest in places like Detroit and a newfound optimism, we have the opportunity to reinvent ourselves, to fix the mistakes of the past. We have an unprecedented chance to bring this new renaissance to more of our citizens. That starts, I think, with planning our transportation systems with a radical sense of what it means to be a neighbor.

To read more articles from the Summer 2018 edition of #talkITS, subscribe online here