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June 26, 2019

Utah Rolls Data Network for Smart Highways

George Leopold

If you are sitting in traffic, the road ahead (and all those brake lights) look pretty dumb. Among the potential solutions for smartening up the roadways and boosting the capacity of the nation’s clogged highways is a partnership between Utah’s Department of Transportation and Panasonic Corp. of North America to develop a network that would share data among motorists, vehicles, infrastructure and roadways installations.

The real-time data network would provide the Utah DoT’s Traffic Operations Center with updates on crashes, stalled vehicles and severe weather. The intent is to allow traffic managers to send out alerts to connected drivers about delay times and alternate routes.

Panasonic said this week the partnership would accelerate development of Utah’s “Smart Roadways” data network, now in its initial phase. A statewide system would eventually collect and share autonomous and connected vehicle data. The system would augment the “Utah Valley Express,” an operational connected vehicle corridor.

Utah’s Transit Authority opened a bus rapid transit corridor last year between Orem and Provo, south of Salt Lake City. Initial ridership is estimate to be 10,000.

The busses are equipped with special radios that communicate with traffic signals along the corridor. In one scenario, buses running behind schedule can extend the length of a green light.

The partners said the initial development phase of the data network would allow state transportation managers to accommodate “the incoming wave of smart vehicles that are more connected, more autonomous and able to operate more safely and more efficiently through communication among vehicles as well as the infrastructure—including signs, signals and other sensors.”

Under the $50 million partnership, Panasonic will install industry standard intelligent sensors along selected state roads. The sensors along with vehicle-mounted software and equipment will collect and transmit data at rates up to of 10 times per second. These data are then shared on cloud-based infrastructure. A central software platform tracks information from the data network and automatically generates alerts shared by vehicles, traffic signals, highway message systems and state transportation managers.

The initial phase of the data network includes 40 installation sites. A fleet of 30 state-owned vehicles will be used to test the network. The goal is to identify traffic chokepoints and use the data network to help reduce congestion and keep traffic moving.

The partners expect to expand the network to 220 installation sights and up to 2,000 vehicles. Once those locations are identified, new software applications will be developed and sensor networks will be installed at key chokepoints.

Panasonic touts is CIRRUS data network as an open architecture that will allow other transportation agencies and third-party developers to connect new applications addressing highway safety and maintenance.

“We’re encouraging developers, startups and members of Utah’s academic community to add value… by creating new applications on the platform,” said Jarrett Wendt, executive vice president of Panasonic North America, which is based in Newark, N.J.

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