Smart City Challenge: Devising a grand plan

This highly publicized program announced in December 2015 drew almost 80 applicants. In June 2016, the agency chose the City of Columbus, Ohio, from seven finalists to receive the $40 million award.

The other finalists are also receiving support from U.S. DOT and partners to move forward with their proposals:

  • Austin, Texas. Mobility Marketplace to improve access to services for unbanked users, older Americans, and the disabled. Multilingual Smart Ambassadors would partner with community organizations to demonstrate new technologies and mobility services. Smart Stations would connect residents with vanpools, bus rapid transit, and car share.
  • Denver. Received $6 million to upgrade its traffic management center, build a connected vehicle (CV) network, and install automated pedestrian detection at difficult crosswalks. The city plans to integrate adaptive signal control and smart ramp metering to optimize flow on two highways, and will test using dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) data from connected vehicles to develop the next generation of dynamic traffic signal control.
  • Kansas City. Partnered with the private sector as part of the application process and is seeking other grants to implement driverless car applications, smart street lighting, and Wi-Fi and digital kiosks along a planned rapid bus line. The city would use its open data architecture to capture and disseminate data on travel flows, traffic crashes, energy usage, air pollution, and resident health.
  • Pittsburgh. Received $11 million for smart traffic signals, which reduce delays by 40%, along major corridors. To halve emissions by 2030, electric vehicle, street lighting, and power generation demonstration projects are planned. The city will convert its fleet to electric vehicles and install charging stations.
  • Portland, Ore. Stationary wireless inductive charging devices to be installed as part of a commercial pilot. Drivers will be able to recharge electric vehicles by hovering over a charging coil or selecting routes with infrastructure that refills the car battery as they drive. This technology will be used to charge semi-autonomous electrified shuttles on circulator routes that link lower-density neighborhoods and employment areas to high-frequency transit lines. The city’s transit agency, TriMet, will integrate shared-use mobility options into its trip planning app.
  • San Francisco. Received $11 million to install multimodal intelligent traffic signal systems using DSRC technology to improve pedestrian safety, reduce idling, and prioritize transit and emergency vehicles. To encourage carpooling, the city proposed creating regional carpool lanes monitored by connected infrastructure, designating curb space for carpool pick-up/drop-off, developing an app for carpool matching, and establishing carpool pickup plazas for people without smartphones.

In October 2016, U.S. DOT announced an additional $65 million in grants to support 19 community-driven advanced technology transportation projects, including support for four Smart City Challenge finalists.

Testing technology in different settings

In September 2016, a new Connected Vehicle (CV) Pilot Deployment Program awarded $45 million for projects in Tampa, Fla., New York City, and Wyoming.

New York City’s is expected to be the largest such program to date. Three areas in Manhattan and Brooklyn will be used to evaluate applications in a dense urban transportation system with tightly spaced intersections.

Vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) technology will include:

  • 310 signalized intersections using DSRC
  • Eight roadside units (RSUs) along a high-speed road to address challenges such as short-radius curves, weight limit, and minimum bridge clearance
  • 36 RSUs at other strategic locations
  • Personal devices issued to 100 pedestrians to help cross streets.

The city’s transportation department also will install vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology in 8,000 taxis, buses, and commercial fleet delivery trucks.

Every year, 32 million tons of freight is transported on the 402 miles of I-80 in Wyoming, which rises above 6,000 feet. Winter crash rates are three to five times higher than summer rates, resulting in truck blow-overs and road closures.

The pilot aims to improve safety and reduce delays by using V2I and V2V connectivity to provide roadside alerts, parking notifications, and dynamic travel guidance.

The state’s transportation department will install 75 RSUs and equip 400 vehicles, including 150 heavy trucks and 100 state vehicles, snowplows, and highway patrol cars, with on-board units.

Test beds

In 2005, the California DOT (Caltrans) established the nation’s first dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) test bed, spanning 11 consecutive intersections along 2 miles in Palo Alto. In partnership with the San Francisco Bay Area's Metropolitan Transportation Commission and University of California, Caltrans conceived the site as a real-world platform for regional industries, government agencies, and research labs.

About a decade later, the site was upgraded with state-of-the-art 5.9 GHz DSRC devices and integrated into the U.S. DOT’s network of affiliated test beds. A fourth-generation 4G LTE backhaul system provides links to the radios so researchers can monitor their tests.

The backhaul system also enables connections with USDOT’s four other affiliated test beds in Michigan (two), Virginia, and Florida. Public, private, and academic organizations can access these sites through membership in the Affiliation of Test Beds. The objectives are to exchange information, develop a common technical platform, and expand test bed options for users.

Click here for more details.

Proving grounds

In January 2017, USDOT designated 10 sites to encourage testing and information sharing of automated vehicle technologies. The goal is to foster innovations that can safely transform personal and commercial mobility, expand capacity, and open doors to disadvantaged populations.

The proving grounds will advance big data usage and “will openly share best practices for the safe conduct of testing and operations as they are developed, … accelerating the pace of safe deployment,” said former U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

Selected from 60 applicants representing academia, state DOTs, cities, and private entities, the proving ground designees are:

  • City of Pittsburgh and the Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute
  • Texas AV Proving Grounds Partnership
  • U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center
  • American Center for Mobility at Willow Run (Michigan)
  • Contra Costa Transportation Authority & GoMentum Station (California)
  • San Diego Association of Governments
  • Iowa City Area Development Group
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Central Florida Automated Vehicle Partners
  • North Carolina Turnpike Authority

Click here for more details.