Why connected vehicles are the fuel for tomorrow’s smart cities, by
Dr. Alan Messer

According to TechRepublic, the smart city industry is projected to become a US$400 billion market by 2020, with 600 smart cities across the globe expected to generate 60 percent of the world's GDP by 2025.

Meanwhile, the Economic & Social Research Council forecasts that global smart city revenue is expected to grow to almost US$89 billion by 2025.

The rapid adoption of mobile and sensor-driven technologies has fueled the increasing pace of new smart city development, and now, a surge in the growth of data from IoT-connected devices is further accelerating smart city innovation. These IoT-connected devices include individuals’ smartphones, devices attached or connected to smart city infrastructure, and consumer devices in the home and in the car. And while data is a highly valuable commodity – to the degree that it may have supplanted oil as the world’s most valuable resource – its true value is only realized when actionable insights are drawn from it.

The potential power of the data is unquestioned, and if harnessed correctly, it can lead to the creation of highly innovative, previously unimagined applications and services that address the needs of the emerging demographic of smart city citizens. Connected vehicles are an especially intriguing part of this conversation, as they’re both a data source and a prime example of the almost endless potential of the smart city.

“The potential power of the data is unquestioned, and if harnessed correctly, it can lead to the creation of highly innovative, previously unimagined applications and services that address the needs of the emerging demographic of smart city citizens”

When it comes to connected vehicles, smart city development has consistently focused on two overarching transportation-related issues: reducing traffic congestion and enabling multi-modal transportation.

Intelligent traffic systems aim to tackle the issue of traffic congestion, but current traffic management systems are limited in their abilities to adapt based to real-time traffic conditions. Meanwhile, the increasing number of multi-modal transportation options in major metropolitan areas provides a potential blueprint for tomorrow’s smart cities, as consumers continue to seek personalized transportation solutions that are affordable, convenient and safe.

However, in those metropolitan areas where the adoption of ride-sharing services is skyrocketing – including New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle – ride-hailing has become a contributor to worsening traffic congestion and lower speeds. In fact, a report commissioned by Uber and Lyft found that their vehicles are responsible for significant portions of vehicle-miles traveled (VMT being a metric that informs traffic congestion) in six major urban centers. Granted, the combined VMT contributions of Uber and Lyft are relatively minor compared to those of personal vehicles, but those ride-sharing/hailing services certainly aren’t helping the issue.

The smart cities of the future will be highly reliant on real-time mobility data, as it will fuel decision-making across a range of city operations. From intersections and traffic lights, to public transit access and precise parking availability, the perceived performance of a smart city depend on the interconnectivity (and data sharing) of a growing range IoT devices – in particular, connected vehicles, which are becoming much more commonplace with affordable, retrofit solutions that leverage the OBD-II port of any car manufactured since 1996.

As smart cities continue to evolve, connected vehicle platforms – with the ability to turn real-time data into actionable insights and predictive recommendations through innovative connected mobility solutions – are poised to become an integral part of the smart city’s tech stack.

“As smart cities continue to evolve, connected vehicle platforms are poised to become an integral part of the smart city’s tech stack”

Through the use of big data analytics, connected vehicle platforms can draw valuable insights to address pressing transportation challenges in smart cities, as well as remove many of the pain points tied to vehicle ownership. Areas in which connected vehicles can deliver deep, data-driven insights include:

  • Traffic Flow Optimization: Changes in traffic flows – such as slowdowns, crashes or closed lanes – can be instantly detected by leveraging the contextual data from a connected vehicle in real-time. This insight can be leveraged to influence traffic re-direction and recalculate ETAs and best routes.

  • Driver Safety: With access to not only location and behavioral data, but also rich diagnostic and recall information, connected vehicles provide a wealth of data to inform the relative health of a vehicle, while also providing the inputs for developing driver behavioral scores around safety and fuel efficiency.

  • Parking assistance: With precision GPS location and vehicle status (e.g. ignition on/off), connected vehicles enable a smarter, more intuitive parking experience (find, reserve and pay) for drivers, while helping cities better manage the real-time usage of on-street parking.

  • Fuel Consumption & Emissions: Automated trip tracking in connected vehicles monitors fuel efficiency and idling, enabling vehicle owners to become more fuel-efficient drivers, while greatly helping cities better understand the role of vehicle emissions in relation to air quality.

  • Tolling & City Access: Traditional (and often expensive) tolling systems can effectively be replaced when real-time sensor data is made available from connected vehicles, reducing the overall costs to operating such a program and improving the overall tolling experience for drivers using bridges. Additionally, the same data set can be efficiently leveraged for managing city access programs.

The above examples become increasingly actionable though the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies across mass data sets. This will unlock previously unavailable insights and perspectives that will shape the cities of the future.

By effectively turning data into useful insights in real-time, connected vehicles are able to address some of the most urgent transportation-related issues associated with smart cities – with increasing traffic congestion, staggering statistics about crash-related deaths (as detailed in this Washington Post article), and the need for efficient multi-modal transportation options at the top of the list.

Less traffic congestion, combined with safer roads and more plentiful transportation options, will go a long way towards making our daily lives significantly more convenient and enjoyable. Considering the potential for tangibly improving the lives of a city’s residents, connected vehicles will continue to play an increasingly integral role in the evolution of the smart city.


Dr Alan Messer PhD is chief technology officer at Mojio

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