Detroit region innovators show off connected intersections during ITS

The streets of downtown Detroit had some extra traffic during the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS) annual meeting at Cobo Hall in early June. Those paying attention would have seen cars, vans, even city buses, clearly identified as “in demonstration,” crossing all of the city’s major intersections.

The focus of ITS is connected transportation and infrastructure, and it features engaging sessions and panels, as well as an exhibition space, but the conference’s strength is its variety of live demonstrations of various connected mobility solutions.

While their demonstrations were largely invisible to bystanders, these vehicles, and their partner technology companies, were showing off innovations that will revolutionize transportation.

We rode along on two particularly interesting demonstrations to catch a glimpse of some technology that will be implemented here in Detroit very soon.

Lear Transit Signal Priority

A partnership between Southfield-based Lear Corporation and software company Carma Networks has connected three intersections along E. Grand Blvd. downtown. At Kercheval, Vernon, and Charlevoix streets, stoplights have been outfitted with roadside units (RSUs) that transmit signals to any connected vehicle within range.

In our case, this was a Detroit Department of Transportation bus, customized with an on-board unit (OBU) and a dedicated short range communications (DSRC) node. For demonstration purposes, the bus also had a large screen to share key pieces of information during the demonstration.
Lear connected intersection technology
The goal of Transit Signal Priority (TSP) is to make transit faster and more efficient for the dozens of people using a bus for mass transit. When the bus approaches the intersection, it transmits a signal through vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication, triggering an extended green light for the bus to pass through the intersection without having to stop.

Implementation is planned for this fall on an actual DDOT major route where pain points have been noted because of frequent traffic signal stops. To test effectiveness, the pilot will compare connected buses against non-connected buses, and analyze the effectiveness results.

The pilot program is part of the Detroit Mobility Innovation Initiative, a public-private partnership designed to test six mobility solutions in four key areas of implementation. In all, 10 organizations, including Lear, are part of this initiative, which was launched in May. Prior to implementation, the project held listening sessions with Detroit residents to gather input on their transportation wants and needs.

With TSP, mass transit potentially will be more efficient, faster, and better for the environment, as buses will no longer be idling at intersections. This technology can be implemented on a regular basis, as well as to manage traffic flow for special events, like fireworks, parades, and major sporting events.

Derq Intersection Collision Avoidance

Derq is a Detroit- and Dubai-based software innovator that has developed intelligent algorithms that work in the vehicle-to-everything (V2X) ecosystem to predict intent and behavior of road users, including vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists, to prevent accidents before they happen.

In collaboration with Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Michigan Department of Transporation, Derq has connected the intersection of E. Jefferson Ave. and Randolph St. in Detroit with sensors and roadside units (RSUs) that can communicate with connected vehicles.

At ITS, Derq demonstrated their Intersection Collision Avoidance system by simulating a vehicle to run a red traffic light. The intersection sensors see the vehicle, recognizes that it will run the red light, and send a signal to the oncoming connected car in time to tell the driver to brake and avoid a collision.

This type of anti-collision technology has been tested for years, but what makes Derq’s innovation so powerful is its ability to make predictions and broadcast safety-critical information within milliseconds. In essence, Derq has taken existing technology and enhanced its intelligence through AI.

A second application being tested here by Derq predicts pedestrian intent, a complex undertaking that requires monitoring, data analysis, and artificial intelligence.
This intersection was chosen for its complexity. It's now a test bed for connected technology to make this intersection, and others like it, safer.
This particular Detroit location was chosen precisely for the complexity it offers. Statistically, it is one of the most dangerous intersections in the region. Sixteen different vehicle and pedestrian approaches, several vehicle turn opportunities, the Detroit-Windsor tunnel, the Renaissance Center, and many other points of interest make this intersection a valuable test bed in which to gather data. In Dubai, Derq has connected two such intersections.

As a PlanetM Landing Zone member, Derq recognizes the value of its presence in the Detroit region, and sees southeast Michigan as a complete corridor for testing connected technology, ultimately to make Detroit--and the rest of the world--safer for all road users.
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