Benefits of Smart City Traffic Infrastructure
The combination of sensors with vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) communications in smart city traffic systems is attracting a growing number of cities to pilot these technologies. The potential benefits include improving traffic safety, reducing congestion, and providing city planners with vital data to upgrade their transportation networks. V2I-equipped sensors can include a combination of cameras, lidar, and radar installed in roadside units (RSUs) to perceive the road, road users, and the surrounding environment and to provide a bidirectional connection between vehicles and other smart city infrastructure such as traffic control centers. The wireless connectivity typically uses either dedicated short-range communications or cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) standards.
Improved Perception for Automated Vehicles
The primary purpose of vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communications in smart city applications has been to expand the perception of automated vehicles (AVs) to improve safety and robustness. Although AVs have a number of sensors onboard, they are limited to line-of-sight perception; RSUs containing offboard sensors extend the situational awareness of AVs and can enable vehicles to see what might otherwise be obstructed by other vehicles, buildings, or the environment. For example, AVs can be aware of the movements of road users and pedestrians at complex junctions in advance, or they can perceive the traffic situation beyond blind bends. Furthermore, V2I perception enables a greater level of data redundancy, better prediction of road events, and faster vehicle responses.
V2X Implementations Are Increasing Globally
China has been leading the way in terms of rolling out V2I. The Chinese government has stimulated the widespread piloting of V2X technologies, promoting a national strategy for an internet of vehicles. Around 90 Chinese cities have partnered with communications technology companies to start installing RSUs, and a target has been set for half of all new vehicles sold in China to be C-V2X compatible by 2025.
Notable projects have also been in operation outside of China. Ford and its subsidiary Quantum Signal have developed smart nodes equipped with lidar, radar, and cameras as found onboard AVs. A smart node system has been installed in Detroit to help deliver groceries to senior citizens using a low speed automated shuttle over a 6-month period. This project aims to gain insights for future automated delivery services.
In South Korea, Autonomous a2z has been pioneering the use of smart city infrastructure for improving safety and capturing road traffic data, as detailed in a recent Guidehouse Insights white paper. The company’s multi-sensor lidar infra system has been deployed on public streets in several municipalities and is capable of accurate, low latency object recognition of road vehicles, pedestrians, and weather conditions. This data is used to guide automated passenger, delivery, and utility vehicles through complex intersections. a2z has transitioned from a software maker to an automaker and is the first Korean company to submit a voluntary safety self-assessment to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Cities Can Already Benefit
Although widespread deployment of AVs are several years away, cities can start to realize many of the benefits of smart city infrastructure now. As cities are striving to meet Vision Zero targets, the improvement of road safety is already of prime importance. Furthermore, V2I technologies can help transportation managers optimize the flow of road traffic to minimize congestion and unnecessary vehicle emissions. Data captured by RSUs can provide deep insights into traffic flow and journey patterns, helping city planners to effectively plan road upgrades and improve public transportation connections. Finally, city authorities can realize economic benefits from automating charging for tolling; for example, from implementing congestion zones or low emission zones or from automating traffic and parking enforcement.