Interstate Highway 15 in Provo, Utah with Mt Timpanogos in background (Bob Pool/Shutterstock.com)

Utah to roll out connected vehicle data platform

The Utah Department of Transportation is building a transportation data network using information from the emerging vehicle-to-everything, or V2X, environment. UDOT’s traffic operations center can use the data to improve roadway safety and mobility, while state policymakers can apply it to infrastructure decisions.

UDOT is partnering with Panasonic on the smart roadway network.  Announced June 25, the $50 million agreement  includes the installation of intelligent sensors along sections of Utah highways that will collect and transmit data to vehicle-mounted equipment at speeds of up to 10 times per second. The data will be shared with a central cloud-based platform that monitors the information from the sensor-vehicle network and automatically generates alerts to vehicles, UDOT staff  and infrastructure components such as traffic signals or variable-message signs.

Panasonic's CIRRUS connected-vehicle data platform was launched in January to provide cloud analytics data processing, real-time analyses and transmission and data storage capabilities. It supports data sharing among transportation departments, network operations centers and vehicle information systems. It also makes the data available to third-party developers who can build applications to “solve for things we haven’t even imagined yet,” said Kellen Pucher, director of strategic initiatives for connected vehicles at Panasonic.

The foundation of CIRRUS is an internet-of-things application program interface layer that lets departments use V2X as a data source for sensing roadway conditions in real time. For instance, onboard units may sense slight tire slippage as roads freeze even before drivers notice.

“Imagine that my car can communicate that to other vehicles around it or to somebody like the Utah Department of Transportation,” Pucher said. “Now you’re talking about getting really interesting information -- and in real time -- about how weather is accumulating or impacting a given corridor, and it’s all happening passively in the background with systems that already exist in our car.”

Additionally, when an airbag deploys after an accident, the vehicle can send an alert to UDOT and emergency responders can be dispatched, possibly before anyone calls 911, he added.

V2X relies on either of two communications technologies, Pucher said. One is dedicated short-range communications based on an advancement of Wi-Fi. The other is C-V2X, which is based on cellular communication. Panasonic’s equipment works with both.

States need to deploy roadside units and onboard units in department fleet vehicles and have a communications infrastructure such as 5G, LTE or fiber optics in place. For instance, Panasonic and the Colorado DOT took advantage last year of about 1,500 miles of fiber optics in the state and deployed 100 RSUs along a 90-mile stretch of the I-70 corridor between Golden and Vail. The system was projected to reduce unimpaired multivehicle crashes by 81% while also improving travel times.

“It’s really about deploying a network that can collect all of this information, over either protocol and managing those assets and understanding where to position those assets throughout the field, throughout the state, throughout the city to optimize data collection and data dissemination,” Pucher said.

States that don’t have a large fiber footprint may be able to use their right-of-way to do data transmission via 5G or LTE, which Panasonic is testing through a partnership with T-Mobile.

Panasonic secures the data that CIRRUS handles by anonymizing it. The vehicles change their signatures to the system at randomized intervals, and the company uses a security credentialing management system similar to that of the U.S. DOT.

In Utah, the first phase of the new system will be installed at 40 sites and in 30 state-owned vehicles. In the future, it will expand to 220 sites and up to 2,000 vehicles.

The state was an ideal candidate for this project because it’s home to the country’s first operational connected vehicle corridor. Buses equipped with special radios communicate to traffic signals, and if they’re running late, the signal can extend the time the light is green.

“Embracing and developing this emerging technology has the potential to make our roads safer, reduce congestion, and help the environment through lower emissions,” UDOT Executive Director Carlos Braceras said.

About the Author

Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.

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