Learning from early adopters in smart mobility: ID your city’s unique needs, be bold, focus on broad scale deployment

25 Sept 2017 Smart Cities Dive, Excerpt

Getting started with lessons learned from early adopters

Lesson 1: Identify your city’s unique needs

Different cities, states and local municipalities will have different needs and goals when it comes to digitizing their transportation systems. Therefore, no one approach can be considered a panacea for all cities. For example, cities that only became major cities within the last 25 years, such as Dallas or Denver, tend to be more car-centric. They have sprawling road systems and are plagued with traffic congestion. These types of sprawling cities can benefit from using smart sensors on roadways to reduce congestion and aid in clearing traffic jams faster, or even prevent them before they occur. In contrast, older, denser cities such as New York have more mass transit systems and people tend to travel mostly within the city center. These types of denser cities can benefit from creating more mobility-as-a-service transportation options and with a seamless, unified platform across multiple modes of public transportation.

Transportation officials should ask themselves which fundamental problems they’re looking to solve, and then prioritize those. While it can be tempting for city officials to want to green-light projects that seems glamorous or will provide quick results, those often won’t solve long-standing challenges in transportation or serve the community in the way it should be served. Instead, officials should look to identify and prioritize initiatives that align with their core mission to increase the safety, efficiency and mobility of transportation.

Lesson 2: Don’t let fear of failure hold you back

One of the biggest obstacles holding cities back from launching connected transportation initiatives is the fear of failure. However, this fear is often misplaced. New technologies developed for smart transportation are specifically designed, tested and validated with a safety-first mentality. These safety-first processes include design documentation, implementation guides, and best practice sharing from other governments with a similar problem set.

Additionally, by using reference frameworks such as the Department of Transportation’s reference designs for connected and automated vehicle systems, cities can rest assured that they are using proven, standardized technologies and approaches that have been successful elsewhere. They can also follow the best practices and lessons learned from the DOT’s Smart Cities Challenge, to understand how other cities their same size that have overcome similar challenges.

Lesson 3: Focus on broad scale deployment

A common mistake that some cities make when planning a connected transportation initiative is to place their sole focus on the deployment of self-driving or autonomous vehicles. However, local governments should not place all their eggs in one basket because they have no control over consumer adoption of personal vehicles and no real way of incentivizing it. Instead, they should focus on strategies such as integrating IoT-enabled devices into their existing city infrastructure and public transit systems.

One such initiative that is beneficial for many cities is traffic signal preemption. By connecting traffic signals and emergency response vehicles with the IoT-enabled sensors and exchanging real-time data, cities can prioritize emergency responders and police, allowing them to preempt the traffic signals and arrive on scene faster. Doing this on a common, converged IP infrastructure and using standards-based dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) enables the city to reuse this architecture for many other applications with reduced incremental cost. This can yield enormous value through not only increasing safety, but also by unlocking new data sets.

Cities of all sizes have started to recognize the benefits of connected transportation, but each one will have a different experience. As long as local officials can identify and prioritize the initiatives that best fit their unique needs, overcome fear of failure and embrace broad scale deployments, they will be able to enjoy faster, more efficient public transportation systems, reduced vehicle congestion, increased safety and many other benefits.