Cities across the country are rushing to embrace smart city connectivity in a variety of ways. The internet of things (IoT) makes it possible to connect municipal services to citizens in ways that enrich their lives – using data and connectivity to improve efficiency and quality of life. From smart trash cans to sound-sensing streetlights to parking space monitors, cities are trying it all.
Connected transportation may see some of the largest investments in the IoT sector, which experts at the nonprofit Smart America Challenge estimate to reach up to $41 trillion in worldwide investments over the next 20 years.
Autonomous vehicles are being tested all over the country in places where connected infrastructure exists. Last week, a self-driving truck traveled 120 miles over a Colorado interstate to deliver 2,000 cases of beer. Self-driving cars are being tested in about a dozen American cities and government officials are drafting policies for the use of the autonomous vehicles that will be available to the general public soon.
Self-driving vehicles are not the only improvements in connected transportation. Last year, the Utah Department of Transportation equipped more than 500 vehicles, including snowplows, with GPS trackers. Citizens are able to access snowplow locations to plan their trips and the department can receive immediate notification of any mechanical problems.
The city of Columbus, Ohio, was recently named a Smart City Challenge winner by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The city won a $40 million grant for a holistic plan to improve citizens’ lives with smart transportation. Officials will use data to improve access to healthcare by offering more transportation options to those in critical need as well as offer self-driving shuttles from a transit center to a retail district.
“The Smart City Challenge required each city to think about transportation as cross-functional, not in silos, but as a transportation ecosystem,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The bold initiatives they proposed demonstrated that the future of transportation is not just about using technology to make our systems safer and more efficient – it’s about using these advanced tools to make life better for all people, especially those living in underserved communities.”
Denver officials are planning to use a $6 million grant to implement three intelligent vehicle projects. The projects will include a connected traffic management center and short-range communications equipment deployed in 1,500 city fleet vehicles. Trucks will also be equipped with pedestrian detection equipment.
In San Antonio, a planned connected transportation information project will incorporate a high water detection system. The city will also install a pedestrian detection system at crosswalks.
Aneri Pattani recently reported for CNBC.com that cities are cities are also investing in air-quality sensors, solar-powered trash compactors and self-healing power grids.
“Analysts estimates on the urban innovation trend are eye-popping — but right now it’s as much for how greatly they vary as for how big the market may ultimately grow to be. Some analysts peg the smart cities market to be worth about $27.5 billion annually by 2023, while others say the market could reach as much as $757 billion by 2020,” wrote Pattani.
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