Once you’ve committed to making your city smarter, the hard work begins. Building a smart city can feel incredibly overwhelming. In order to be successful, you need a well defined strategy and a clear starting point. For many years we’ve been hearing that street lights are the best place to start. But, we’re here to argue that’s no longer the case.
There are valid reasons why street lights are a popular choice. They can provide a connectivity network for other sensors to plug into, and of course decrease the cost of electricity – but that’s largely where the upside ends. In order to create a truly solid foundation upon which to build your smart city, we believe the best place to start is at the intersection. We’ve identified four key benefits that a smart intersection can offer that make it the clear choice when creating a strong backbone for your smart city.
Smart intersections can make roads safer, help transit arrive on time, reduce congestion, improve freight mobility and emergency response time, and make streets friendlier for pedestrians and cyclists. Take commute times for instance: there are few things more frustrating to drivers than unpredictable commutes. When the trip to work varies greatly from day to day, citizens become frustrated, often leading to more dangerous driving. With smart intersections, traffic moves more efficiently and signal issues are resolved in days – not months. What results is a more reliable commute, and happier citizens who can more accurately predict how long their drive will take before they ever hit the road. There’s simply no other place in the city that offers the level of citizen impact of a smart intersection.
Smart intersections have access to a far richer set of data than other smart infrastructure, including street lights, utilities, buildings, and more. They have access to video footage from countless traffic cameras, data on the routes people are taking in a city, and information on where congestion exists, just to name a few examples. And, that data can be analyzed to determine even more insights such as where the most dangerous parts of the city are for citizens, or where maintenance crews should be deployed to maximize impact. No other infrastructure in a city has access to this data set.
Street lights offer a clear operational cost savings opportunity through power savings. But, the potential savings of smart intersections are much larger. Remote maintenance and diagnostics are saving cities hundreds of thousands of dollars by reducing truck runs and technician time, and tools like ATSPMs are saving even more on engineering analysis and planning. When the tools are used properly, smart intersections can provide more cost savings over traditional approaches than almost any other part of a smart city. Plus, when you start at the intersection you’ll experience small wins as you build toward your ultimate smart city goal.
The single biggest change coming to smart cities all over the world, is connected and autonomous vehicles – and that change is coming sooner than many expected. For instance, Uber recently agreed to purchase 24,000 AVs from Volvo and aim to implement robotically driven taxis in US cities as soon as 2019. Cities must be prepared to take advantage of the opportunities provided by these emerging technologies. Smart intersections are clearly the platform to do that.