Traffic jam (Predrag Sepelj/Shutterstock)

Tampa revs up connected-vehicle pilot

As cars with sensors and connectivity features merge into the traffic stream, cities are beginning to think about how urban infrastructure can best exchange traffic and safety information with such vehicles.

In 2015, Tampa was one of three locations awarded a grant from the Department of Transportation to stand up pilot projects focused on connected vehicles. The other two projects are in New York City and Wyoming.

Led by the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority, the Florida city is testing 13 different applications for connected vehicles technology across six different use cases: morning back-ups, wrong-way entry, pedestrian safety, transit signal priority, streetcar conflicts and traffic flow optimization. These will combine applications that include both vehicle-to-vehicle communication and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication.

Two of the programs are taking place in the area surrounding the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway in downtown Tampa where alerts for traffic backups and wrong-way entry will be broadcast to 1,600 commuters who volunteer to equip their cars with on-board units that  display safety messages on an enhanced rearview mirror. THEA is offering a discounted toll fares for volunteers.

Tampa will start the full deployment of private vehicle units in December, according to Steve Novosad, senior intelligent transportation system project manager for HNTB Corp., an industry partner in the connected vehicle pilot. The goal is to have all 1,600 units deployed by April 2018 and begin evaluation the following month.

The morning back-ups test, for example, aims to mitigate congestion that forms when the expressway, which  brings thousands of people into the city every morning, terminates in the city and produces back-ups of more than a mile, Novosad said.

The V2V communications on the roadway will provide drivers whose cars are equipped with the onboard units with both forward-collision warnings and emergency electronic brake light warnings. Forward-collision warnings alert drivers warnings when need to slow down or stop for oncoming traffic; brake light warnings let drivers know when someone ahead had to make a quick stop. These alerts will be communicated to drivers through their rearview mirrors -- part of the hardware that will be added to volunteer’s cars -- which will provide both visual and auditory warnings.

Additionally, roadside units will measure car cues and provide “end of ramp deceleration warning.” Some of the morning back-ups occur on curves, reducing visibility, so this warning will notify drivers if they’re approaching a stopped line of cars.

A dedicated short-range communications network handles data transmission between the vehicles and the roadside units, and then the data is sent via Wi-Fi LTE to the traffic management center.

The city is using the Siemens  Sitraffic Concert traffic data management solution to gather the data for the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research, which is doing the data analysis. "There will be minimal data cleaning” because the university wants to see the data in a fairly raw form, Novosad said.

The city is currently working with Siemens to determine the best location for the roadside units. “Siemens is in Tampa this week going through the site surveys on all of the intersections in order to identify where to place the RSUs and start to install them over the next few weeks,” he said.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao testified in May that connected vehicle initiatives would likely remain a priority for USDOT under the Trump administration. Chao said in her testimony that current projects would be evaluated to determine how “state and local partners can continue to be laboratories of innovation."

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a former reporter for GCN.

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