Infrastructure, AVs promise safe, efficient urban transport

By 2050, 70 percent of the world’s population will live or work in cities. Globally, road accidents account for 1.25 million deaths per year, and more people die on U.S. roads than in any other developed nation. These statistics, compounded with the current single owner vehicle model so common across the U.S., provide evidence for governments and transportation agencies to think carefully about how to move people more safely and efficiently.

How autonomy can help solve transportation problems in the smart city of the future was the topic of discussion for an expert panel during AutoMobili-D called "Urbanization: Solving Transportation Woes through Autonomy."

Moderated by John Peracchio, general manager of mobility solutions and strategy with Conduent, and co-chair of the Michigan Council on Future Mobility, the panel featured Carrie Morton, deputy direct at Mcity at the University of Michigan, Frank Sgambati, director of business development, Smart City at Bosch, and Neville Boston, CEO at Reviver Auto.

With talking points that covered the spectrum from equity and inclusion to new infrastructure technologies and the need for consumer trust, the panelists shared their own organizations’ innovations as examples of forward movement to address the challenges of transportation efficiently in cities that are overcrowded with single-occupant vehicles.

Key moments from this discussion:

Infrastructure is critical to mitigate the woes of urbanization.

In cities, mobility choices can reduce vehicle congestion. “We need to make sure that we have safer, more efficient transportation that is accessible to everyone,” says Carrie Morton of Mcity. “First mile/last mile AVs can plug into existing systems and get more people off the congested roadways. But it has to be part of a larger mobility ecosystem.”

In smart, connected cities, all components of the infrastructure may have new or reimagined purposes, says Frank Sgambati from Bosch, which is developing sensors to aid in IoT applications. “We can use video as a sensor for smart parking solutions and curbside management,” he says. “We can take the curb that is weighted toward pedestrian use, and integrate scooters, even driverless vehicle drop offs. The curb is becoming a piece of real estate that needs intelligence to manage.”

But who is paying for it?

Infrastructure development will speed along with public-private partnerships, says Neville Boston of Reviver Auto. “We are working in Dubai on a proof of concept with their smart city initiative,” says Boston, who announced during the panel discussion that his startup’s digital license plates, already in use in California, Florida, and other states, have been authorized as legal for use in Michigan by recently-passed legislation.

Equipped with Bluetooth, RFID, LGTE, and accelerometer technology, even digital license plates are part of the connected infrastructure. “We are working to develop partnerships with states and with companies like Bosch to bring solutions to the fore,” says Boston.

With careful planning, smart infrastructure can address accessibility, social equity, and inclusion. One example is the digital license plate, which can integrate taxes and fees, allowing payments to be amortized over periods of time.

Bosch is working in partnership with Daimler and the city of San Jose to provide automated taxis, and deployed an IoT shuttle at CES 2019 which simulates the experience of an AV, simply to gather user feedback. Bosch is also working on a 35-mile smart corridor in Columbus, Ohio (as well as demonstrating its use at an intersection in Detroit).

“We’re looking at it from both angles: the vehicle side and the infrastructure side,” says Sgambati.

With recent highly-publicized collisions involving driverless vehicles, Mcity has announced it will champion test track-based voluntary testing standards for AVs in order to build public trust. “About 45,000 people lose their lives in traffic accidents yearly, but we are really pretty good at driving,” says Morton. “We still have a lot to learn and public trust is an important step forward.”

At University of Michigan, Mcity has deployed two low-speed driverless shuttles specifically to provide an experience for users to learn how AVs interact with other road users, and how a user’s level of trust changes over time.

“We are doing a lot of work in the ultimate sandbox of challenges. There is no good way to demonstrate safety other than inside Mcity,” she says.

Shared mobility can help reduce congestion today.

A wholesale replacement of legacy vehicles with AV counterparts ferrying one rider from home to work, school, and shopping and back again clearly won’t reduce the number of vehicles on the road. Here’s where innovation in shared mobility can help.
As a leader in shared mobility solutions, Bosch launched an electric scooter sharing platform called Coup in Paris and Berlin, and has acquired corporate rideshare platform SPLT. “This is a ridesharing pool that can take a bite out of congestion today. A business owner can give associates an app to use to carpool together,” says Sgambati.

SPLT recently received a grant from MDOT to create solutions for healthcare transportation in rural Michigan.

Digital license plate technology was recently adopted by Michigan legislature for use by auto owners.

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