How everyone can benefit from data sharing of real-time traffic information

How everyone can benefit from data sharing of real-time traffic information
Sharing real-time traffic information across different agencies is the key to developing smarter traffic solutions. Real-time traffic information is only available when traffic signals have a connection back to a central traffic management center. It is currently estimated that more than half of all signals are not connected, according to Todd Kreter, SVP and GM of Roadway Sensors at Iteris. Once connected though, agencies can access real-time traffic information through an advanced traffic management system in a variety of formats. They can then determine a signal’s status, as well as its diagnostic status.
 
Todd Kreter, SVP and GM,
Roadway Sensors, Iteris

With so many internet of things (IoT) devices being deployed for traffic management, the data being gathered is a gold mine for not only traffic controllers, but also other transportation and law enforcement agencies, as well as drivers. However, only when this data is shared can all parties reap the benefits.
 
Several solutions can address information exchange between agencies according to real-time needs and interagency agreements. Shared information can be achieved by using a shared data repository acting as a data hub, considering that agreed data is generated and consumed according to preagreed roles.
 
“Most or all agencies can also articulate an agreement for a shared ‘umbrella system,’ each one can already use such system for information dissemination and for coordination of actions across agencies,” said Urban Traffic Management Experts from Kapsch TrafficCom. They added the main challenges were defining agreements as firm as possible for consortia creations, building common platforms if agreed and intensive use of existing and future systems for the agreed goals.
 
Having data in standardized formats and an open architecture that avoids vendor lock-in are ways to avoid the challenges of data sharing, according to Matthew Trushinski, Director of Marketing at Miovision. His company believes in open architectures “to allow other city departments, third-party vendors and other partners to leverage the data generated at the street-level to make city life better.”
 
Bas van der Bijl, Manager, and Stefan Hjort, ITS Expert at Sweco, also noted that real-time open data would be used more and more. “Sharing information is the key to be able to develop smart solutions for the traffic in urban areas. When open data is available, the threshold for new solutions to enter the cities will be lowered,” they said.
 
Current developments in traffic management software are helping to facilitate better use of and sharing of collected data. “To effectively share information between city agencies, a common framework for representing city data is a prerequisite, and developing this common representation is the main challenge,” said Stephen Smith, Co-Founder and Chief Scientist at Rapid Flow Technologies. For example, Surtrac currently provides an API for communicating real-time traffic information to a municipality — one of its current deployments is starting to tap into this data as part of their Open Data initiative.
 
Kreter explained how Iteris’ Signal Performance Measures (SPM) was being developed to make better use of the information provided by IoT sensing devices as well as by the traffic signal controllers. “This can provide information on vehicle volumes, speeds, locations, signal status, as well as bicycles and pedestrians and can provide multiple views of overall traffic signal performance,” he said. All this data, when shared, could significantly help various agencies improve traffic management.
 
Popular consumer navigation apps like Waze are also doing their part to share data. In April 2018, Waze signed a deal with Waycare, a traffic management startup, to bring “two-way data sharing” of municipal and road traffic data. According to a press release from Waycare, the collaboration will enable “cities and public agencies to communicate directly with vehicles on the road and to harness real-time in-vehicle data for advanced traffic management operations.”
 
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