- Kansas City, MO–based startup Integrated Roadways is piloting two projects that would bring sensors as well as phone and internet connectivity to those cities’ roads, according to Government Technology.
- One of the projects will be located in Kansas City and the other in a yet-to-be-named city outside of Missouri. The combined 1.5 miles of pavement should be completed by August 2018.
- Using data collected from the roads, the company wants to help city officials track issues like congestion and the need for maintenance monitor vehicles and offer a place to lay fiber-optic cable to increase internet bandwidth. Future hardware could support connected or self-driving vehicles.
In Florida, a new test track under construction will experiment with high-speed tolling technology and vehicle-to-infrastructure and vehicle-to-vehicle communication with the goal of increasing efficiency and speed for those traveling the Florida Turnpike.
Georgia officials are testing smart-highway and vehicle technology along a 16-mile segment of Interstate 85. Outfitted with sensors, solar pavement and electronic and autonomous vehicle technologies, the upgraded road, project partners say, will be safer, more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly.
Part of the rapid growth in smart highways can be attributed to the development of connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) technology, Key Market reported. However, although some private companies are piloting driverless programs and state-level interest and investment is growing, CAV initiatives are still in their infancy. More testing facilities are popping up across the U.S. T
he American Center for Mobility at Willow Run, being built near Detroit, is one such site and is among a group selected by the Department of Transportation as national testing stages for such technology as it makes its way to the roads.
Ohio has what will likely be the country’s longest autonomous car-ready roadway. The 35-mile stretch of Interstate 33 will have sensors to collect weather and traffic data, fiber-optic cables to provide nearby towns with faster internet and — by next summer, Inverse reported — the ability to share data with connected vehicles.
- Ohio is investing $15 million to create a 35-mile smart highway test bed north of its capital, Columbus, for testing self-driving vehicles and other developing highway and transportation technologies.
- Dubbed the “Smart Mobility Corridor,” the four-lane, limited-access Interstate 33 will be outfitted with fiber-optic cables to transmit data collected by wireless sensors situated alongside and embedded in the roadway. The highway carries up to 50,000 vehicles per day through rural and urban settings in a full range of weather conditions. This data will also provide more frequent and accurate traffic counts, weather and surface condition monitoring, and incident management improvements, according to ODOT spokesman Matt Bruning.
- Work to install sensors and a fiber optic network along the corridor is scheduled to begin in May 2017 and last throughout the summer (trenching on the shoulder, laying thick orange fiber optic cables that will allow sensors along the highway to communicate with autonomous cars, using the wifi connection to inform the connected cars about upcoming traffic, weather changes, road conditions, and accidents. They will also connect with government vehicles using short-range radio transmitters (DSRC). The $218 million project is intended to put central Ohio on the map for autonomous car testing and give towns along the corridor better wifi, since their internet speeds were too slow. The towns started to look into internet speed right as the Ohio government and the Transportation Research Center, the largest independent car testing facility in North America, started looking into expanding autonomous car testing. “It’s serendipity, I guess,” says Donna Goss, director of development in Dublin, Ohio to Inverse. Suddenly, the sleepy towns of Marysville, Dublin, and Union County were able to apply for “smart mobility” grants in order to build modern internet infrastructure, as well as a smart highway.
- Otto Motors has used the corridor to test self-driving vehicles. The sensor technology will also be used to provide more frequent reporting on traffic, weather and road conditions. Additional project partners include Honda’s research and development arm and The Ohio State University’s Center for Automotive Research.
In August, Uber purchased Otto and teamed up with Volvo on various self-driving proof-of-concept and R&D projects, including the 120-mile autonomous Budweiser Beer truck delivery made this past October in Coors Country on Interstate 25 in Colorado. While autonomous vehicles on the construction job-site are still several years away, on-highway self-driving technology could impact building material supply chains by optimizing delivery routes for reduced fuel costs. Budweiser, for one, says self-driving trucks could save the beer maker $50 million per year from improved supply chain logistics.
Autonomous vehicles aren’t the only smart technology being developed for over-the-road transportation. The makers of a shotcrete formulation being used to protect U.S. military sites from electromagnetic attack are also leveraging their technology to melt snow and ice from highway surfaces.
Roads that Pay for Themselves: Startup Nears Two Smart Pavement Pilot Project Contracts Integrated Roadways is close to securing contracts for projects where they could test out “smart pavement” aimed at making roads financially self-sufficient.
/ AUGUST 14, 2017
After years of planning, the next several months are when Tim Sylvester will get the chance to start testing out what he’s been telling people for years: roads can pay for themselves.
Sylvester’s company, Integrated Roadways, wants to put sensors, phone and Internet connectivity and other hardware inside the surfaces society drives on. The company has been pitching the idea to governments since 2012, but unlike the nimble cloud startups that have flared in and out of existence in the interim, Integrated Roadways is dealing in one of the heaviest kinds of hardware possible for a tech company to lift. So until now, it’s been limited to exploring the idea in partnership with governments who might want to put high-tech roads in place in the future.
Finally, it has two pilot projects coming up where it intends to actually lay down pavement and prove its concept: One in Kansas City, Mo. and one in another state. Bob Bennett, Kansas City’s chief innovation officer, confirmed the location of the first pilot. Sylvester has yet to announce the location of the second. Sometime this month, Sylvester expects to formally enter into contracts with both state agencies involved to lay down a combined 1.5 miles of pavement. He expects construction to begin in the spring, and to finish around August 2018. Though limited in physical length, the pilot projects are looking to offer preliminary proof of some grandiose ideas.
The status quo in most of the U.S. is that the government always has a maintenance backlog when it comes to roads, and there’s never enough money or time to catch up. So the roads sit in disrepair, the problems grow more expensive, transportation departments have less ability to try out new things without federal assistance and traffic continues to get worse.
“The reason that we’ve had the circular discussion for decades now about paying for roads is that it’s always been a back and forth between taxes and tolls,” Sylvester said. “There’s never been a voice for using technology.”
Sylvester’s idea is to veritably stuff the roads full of technology. Connectivity backbones could help telecommunications firms deploy 5G networks, or give cities a place to put fiber-optic cable and spread high-speed Internet. Sensors could gather data on vehicle counts, speeds and weights, giving cities better access to information. In the future, other built-in hardware could support the communications needs of connected and self-driving vehicles, or electromagnetic coils could charge the batteries of electric vehicles as they drive.
All of those things are valuable enough to be sold to various buyers. So valuable, Sylvester thinks, that they could enable Integrated Roadways to put down the roads without charging anything up-front to the government. So valuable that they could give transportation budgets all they need to pay for maintenance.
Emphasis on “thinks.” There’s a lot to be proven. Bennett said he has no idea how much of it will turn out the way Integrated Roadways is planning. After all, it’s a big departure from the way roads currently operate. In fact, Bennett said he’s skeptical that the roads would pay for themselves if they were installed today.
“Until such time as a sufficient number of connected vehicles on the road, or the technology that is included in the road itself, links to the applications people already have on their phones and get monetized by corporate organizations, I think that’s probably not likely,” he said.
From a government standpoint, simply getting fast, accurate, granular data on traffic conditions is highly valuable.
“Right now we estimate it, we can send people out to track it, and we can send people out if there’s a problem … but (it would be different) to now be able to give you a precise number and a trend analysis to figure out how we can get traffic off that road, ways to incentivize mass transit, ways to engage the public to mitigate that mass transit issue,” Bennett said.
Ideally, the data would fly beyond the IT offices and onto the desks of elected officials, who could use the insights to legislate better solutions for traffic problems.
“Right now if I just say ‘It’s bad,’ everyone will shake their head,” he said. “But if I can say ‘It’s bad to X degree and we need to remove this many cars,’ now we can do some policy with that.”
For now, it remains a series of hypotheses to be tested. Specifically, Bennett said he will be curious to see how well the sensors work, how the technology integrates with the city’s existing civic data platform, what the maintenance needs will be, and how well the road enables him to describe Kansas City’s commuting problems.