USDOT to Publish Data on Vehicle Connectivity, Automation, and Smart Infrastructure

USDOT to Publish Data on Vehicle Connectivity, Automation, and Smart Infrastructure

March 23, 2017  | Greg Rogers

March 23, 2017

Across the coming years, U.S. Department of Transportation plans to release a series of data sets pertaining to autonomous vehicles, connected vehicle and connected infrastructure pilots, and smart city initiatives.

USDOT has already published over 180 data sets through the Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office (ITS JPO). ITS JPO administers grants and programs across all modes of transportation to accelerate the adoption of new technologies that will increase safety and efficiency. The agency provides research data across all modes, with a focus on connected vehicles, automation, and smart cities programs – particularly those that are funded by USDOT.

Its Research Data Exchange (RDE) provides agencies and analysts with access to information collected across the U.S. on vehicle occupancy, signal phase and timing (SPaT), arterial congestion, and real-time vehicle trajectory.

Additionally, the USDOT Weather Data Environment (WxDE) collects and disseminates real-time data on weather patterns across the U.S. This includes weather data collected from stationary environmental sensors and connected vehicles.

In turn, this data can be used to track the impact of weather on transportation networks and – in places without sensors nearby – monitor connected vehicle performance to infer current weather conditions (for example, multiple windshield wiper activations detected in a given area may imply precipitation).

ITS JPO currently has three connected vehicle pilots underway with the New York City DOT, Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA), and Wyoming DOT. It also oversaw the Smart City Challenge, which Columbus, Ohio won last year, as well as Integrated Corridor Management (ICM) initiatives in Dallas and San Diego.

During a webinar on March 21, ITS JPO outlined how data collected from these and other initiatives is being published and used by a variety of stakeholders from public and private organizations.

Michael Pack from the University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced Transportation Technology (CATT) Lab informed participants that USDOT is currently sourcing data on travel time, signal phase and timing (SPaT), vehicle automation, signal preemption, collision avoidance warning data, and traditional ITS sensor data.

As vehicles and infrastructure become increasingly connected, USDOT has begun to compile a database of basic safety messages transmitted between cars and the built environment. This includes vehicle size, position, speed, heading, and acceleration – all of which can be transmitted up to ten times per second.

According to Pack, this data will soon be made available in real-time (or near real-time) in order to analyze traveler behavior, the results of automobile manufacturers’ tests, and performance measures.

(Source: ITS JPO)

As vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) technology continues to advance, authorities will be able to transmit safety information directly to drivers. This would power a variety of applications for state highway agencies and other authorities, such as instructing drivers to switch lanes before reaching a work zone, providing real-time updates on tolling rates, and notifying drivers of changing speed limits.

ITS JPO is also preparing for the expanded testing and eventual development of autonomous vehicles (AVs). Currently, the agency is collecting information on automation and cooperative adaptive cruise control (CACC) technologies to measure the performance of AVs, and also how human drivers behave when they are behind the wheel of vehicles with varying degrees of autonomy.

(Source: ITS JPO)

The latter is especially important. Automakers are developing vehicles that are increasingly – but not fully – capable of driving themselves. Drivers are still expected to pay attention to the road and take over control after activating semi-autonomous driving modes. However, there are serious concerns that drivers may become too comfortable with semi-autonomous systems – which are capable of nearly perfect performance in certain situations – and thereby fail to take control in a dangerous situation.

ITS JPO is also collecting vehicle trajectory data that tracks the speed, heading, and precise location of vehicles in real-time. Using data collected from cars in Washington, D.C. during rush hour, Pack showed how data analysts can track the movement of vehicles across an entire region.

“Imagine breadcrumb trails – watching vehicles move around,” said Pack. “There could be tens of millions of data points coming out of this,” he said. Pack suggested that such information could be analyzed in real-time to help agencies monitor traffic and drivers avoid congestion. In the long term, he said, this could help agencies decide where to divert their limited resources for mitigating and/or calming traffic.

However, this wealth of information has made some privacy advocates and transportation agencies uneasy. There are concerns that this wealth of information could be abused, resulting in significant breaches of citizen privacy.

“We’re making sure that the data being shared does not endanger privacy,” said Ariel Gold, ITS JPO Data Program Manager.

In cases where potentially sensitive data are being collected, Gold said that ITS JPO intends to conduct comprehensive data cleaning – a process that removes personally identifiable information such as specific users’ travel patterns, home/work addresses, and other variables.

ITS JPO is actively soliciting feedback on the type, format, and quantity of data that stakeholders would find useful. This will inform ITS JPO’s release of future data on the three connected vehicle pilots that are currently underway, Columbus’ smart city initiative, and other deployments of transportation technology.

(Source: ITS JPO)

Of particular interest will be automated shuttle data collected by Smart City Columbus. The initiative will provide real-time data on the performance of its automated shuttles in a closed system with synchronized scheduling.

In early April, ITS JPO will have an interactive webinar series to gather additional information and feedback from stakeholders. This will be used to inform the agency’s future investments and areas of focus.

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