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5 examples of smart city transportation solutions

As we enjoy smarter travel experiences and as digitalisation alter passenger mobility expectations and across the world, we wish to take a closer look at some of the smart city transportation solutions that are changing the way that people travel and how this is likely to evolve over the next decade.

Self-driving vehicles, traffic lights that adjust based on vehicle flow, bike sharing, and smart pavements that provides public Wi-Fi access—those are but a few of the solutions that are making cities smarter.

Not only have municipalities embraced the smart city concept—using technology to manage a city’s assets, improve the efficiency of services, reduce consumption of resources, reduce costs and improve the quality of life— many are making these aspirations a reality.

Auckland is embracing smart city applications

In late 2020, SPARK partnered with Auckland Transport to install an IoT-enabled infrastructure in the Wynyard Quarter which included smart city applications including connected lighting, smart parking, smart benches, and smart bins.

SPARK’s deployment of 5G in downtown Auckland enabled the implementation of these smart city technologies and the deployment in the Wynyard Quarter is a demonstration of what the future could look like for the city’s wider central business district.

In a report by Smart Cities World, Auckland Transport group manager technology solutions, Chris Creighton reported that, “Aucklanders visiting the city can spend up to one third of their journey searching for a carpark, so we’re working with SPARK to explore ways to help Aucklanders find available carparks quicker by installing 200 smart parking sensors throughout the Quarter.”

The report goes on to state, “Smart lighting has been installed in the surrounding streets of Wynyard Quarter’s Innovation Precinct, which can now generate heat maps of foot traffic to help AT identify any “choke points” to better inform future infrastructure investments, as well as monitor air and noise pollution.

Some lights are fitted with 5G connected CCTV which could enable better detection of criminal activity, capturing high definition video even at night, and can be dimmed and brightened remotely to help reduce energy consumption.”

In addition, solar-powered smart benches with smart phone and electric scooter charging capabilities have been installed in the Quarter along with smart bins which recognise when bins are full to prevent overflow and reduce the number of rubbish trucks on the road.

5 examples of smart city transportation solutions

We have already touched on some of the smart city solutions being rolled out in Auckland, however, around the world, smart city transportation solutions are already in play. Here are some of the best examples of smart city transport solutions.

1.      Adaptive traffic signals

Traditional traffic signals use timers and inductive loops to determine when the light should change. While this is effective, it doesn’t allow cities to adjust the signal cycle when there are changes in traffic levels, leading to congestion. Instead of relying on this outdated technology, smart cities will use adaptive signals to adjust the real-time management of traffic systems.

According to a report by the US Department of Transportation, adaptive traffic signals are deployed in less than 1% of existing traffic signals in the US. Comparatively, in South Korea, BlueSignal rolled out their AI-driven traffic prediction solution which incorporates adaptive traffic signals with a host of other data including driving speeds, risks and congestion to help predict traffic conditions for drivers, allowing them to make informed decisions and to adapt quickly.

BlueSignal CEO Jason (Seng Tae) Baik said, “In the movie Minority Report, the main character arrives at his destination quickly and safely in his desired timeframe by observing traffic conditions via HUD. I hope that BlueSignal’s prediction and analysis solution can help reduce the social costs of traffic congestion and create a safer and more comfortable driving environment.”

2.      Smart pedestrian safety

The US is leading the way when it comes to smart solutions for pedestrians. As cities become smarter, public transport becomes more reliable and cities add more pedestrian and cycle paths, it has become a vital cog in smart city design for cities to focus on pedestrian safety.

In Portland, Oregon, the local authority is working with a startup out of Pittsburgh called Rapid Flow to avoid pedestrian accidents with an AI-powered system that automatically optimises traffic conditions. This system will be able to communicate with neighbouring intersections and any connected smart vehicles nearby.

Technology like this will take time to be embedded into smart cities, with city planners working to teach old infrastructure new tricks. Technology like this is sometimes referred to as disruptive smart technology as it is attempting to do something radical. However, once embedded, the technology will help reduce pedestrian accidents.

3.      Biking solutions

As well as pedestrians, biking has also become an important factor for commuting in smart cities. In the US, more people than ever are cycling as a way of commuting to work. The big challenge for city planners is finding ways to integrate safe cycling into city infrastructures that typically are short on space.

In a report by Government Tech, they report that in Seattle in 2016, 3.8% of workers commuted by bike. This was up from just 2.6% in 2009. In Portland, Oregon, one of the smartest cities in the US, 6.5% of workers rode their bike to work in 2016, up from 5% in 2009.

In Oslo, city planners are currently building 27 miles of cycling road in an aim to reduce emissions, banning cars from the city centre. In Barcelona, they have introduced a smart cycling initiative called ‘Bicing’ which allows passengers to access over 400 bike stations through a yearly system or phone payments. London has also trialled bike sharing schemes in order to get more people biking and more people out of cars.

4.      Parking solutions

Cities around the world are investing in smart parking solutions in a bid to ease the issues associated with finding a parking space. Singapore, which is aiming to be the world’s first ‘smart nation’, has deployed the use of sensors around the city to accumulate and monitor large amounts of data, which they are using to improve parking, traffic and cleanliness.

In San Francisco the use of smart ticketing to streamline public transport processes and smart parking, which allows authorities to adjust parking prices in areas based on the number of available spaces, is helping people move more freely throughout the city.

In most cities, the use of sensors to identify empty parking spaces in large, multi-storey carparks is helping to reduce the amount of time people spend looking for an empty space and alerts people to free spaces with the use of warning lights and display boards.

5.      Smart corridors

Sections of roads feature technologies that alert drivers of the upcoming traffic conditions, including any accidents that lie ahead, how long it will take them to reach a particular destination, impending weather events and other obstacles that could impact driving. Smart corridors keep motorists “in the know” so that they can plan ahead, which in turn helps to ease traffic.

According to a report by State Tech, states like Wyoming in the US are using V2I (Vehicle to Infrastructure) technologies to help cars and trucks pass congested and hazardous areas safely. They are using V2I technology to send safety-related weather and road alerts to drivers who enrol for the innovative program. With 75 short-range communication devices situated in points of interest, drivers receive traffic information, and officials expect to see a significant lift on the local economy and overall safety among travellers in the area.

Summary

Cities around the world, including cities here in New Zealand, are embracing smart technologies to improve transportation networks, reduce traffic congestion and improve safety for all commuters, no matter the method of transport.

Here at NEC New Zealand, we recently signed a long-term agreement with Environment Canterbury and the Christchurch City Council to evolve the current bus network into a smart transportation network. It is initiatives like this that put transportation at the heart of smart growth for a modern city.

Many of these smart transport solutions are powered by the Internet of Things (IoT) which is allowing for the collection and analysis of huge amounts of data which can then be utilised to improve transportation networks and implement smart solutions for travellers and pedestrians alike.

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