Mobility Moments Podcast: Siemens Mobility featuring Marcus Welz and Eric Gannaway



Driven - Mobility Moments: Marcus Welz, CEO, Siemens Mobility Intelligent Traffic Systems and Eric Gannaway, Senior Sales Executive, Siemens Mobility

 

The promise of a smooth commute through automobility requires a fair amount of innovation. This time on Driven's Mobility Moments Podcast, I'm talking with Marcus Welz, CEO of Siemens Mobility Intelligent Traffic Systems; and Eric Gannaway, senior sales executive with Siemens Mobility in Sterling Heights. They share insight into Siemens' commitment to Michigan, and what the intelligent future holds for commuters, pedestrians and all road users.

I'm your host, Claire Charlton.

Marcus and Eric, welcome to Driven's Mobility Moments Podcast. Thank you for joining me today.

Marcus Welz:

Great to be here, Claire.

Eric Gannaway:

Thank you.

Claire Charlton:

Now today, we're talking about innovation, and we're talking about Siemens Mobility Innovation. And Marcus, I want to ask, Siemens Mobility has a whole division that is dedicated to what you call Intelligent Traffic Systems, or ITS. Can you explain what ITS is, and why it's important?

Marcus Welz:

Sure. Well first, as a company we have been driving towards the future of mobility throughout our 170 years of history. We have presented the first electric railway system in 1879. And more than a hundred years back, we have implemented the first automated and electric traffic light system, both in Europe and also in the United States. Actually, the intersection in Cleveland, Ohio is still, today, controlled by Siemens traffic light controller.

So specifically for Siemens Intelligent Traffic Systems, we are the world market leader for road transportation solutions, and also, an innovation leader for digital technologies applied across the United States and across the globe.

We serve the whole spectrum. All the roadside infrastructure, which is meant to improve traffic and increase safety. And, this also includes advanced traffic management system for cities, counties, or statewide systems, both on highways or urban areas. There are a number of additional technologies like, connected vehicle technologies, public transport prioritization, mobility-as-a-service, as part of our spectrum. And ultimately, our goal is to significantly improve the way we travel throughout cities, reduce delays, decrease travel time and improve safety. This is all what we do in terms of technology and deployment.

Claire Charlton:

And so, Siemens traffic systems innovations are currently at work, but they're behind the scenes. What do they look like? Can you offer us some examples of what they look like, for people who are traveling down the roads in their cars as usual?

Marcus Welz:

Yeah. Everybody certainly knows our core portfolio, right? Which is just simply a traffic light and the traffic light controllers. But what you don't see is the software and digital solutions and models which are running in the background and are meant to make traffic way more efficient. We are using real-time traffic data, which we detect through various amounts of means, for instance, by cameras or by cellular data. And then we apply smart algorithms in order to make the traffic lights operate more efficiently. So we can change the patterns in real time to adjust the traffic lights, and make people travel through a corridor way more efficiently.

Maybe one more thing, you will start more and more seeing some small boxes on a pole, on a traffic light or just on a curve exiting on a highway. And these are the so-called roadside units, which is the infrastructure element and enabling connected vehicle technology. Which ultimately, serves the purpose of enabling the car to talk directly to the infrastructure. So, as a driver you will get a warning if you are driving towards a red light, or you'll get a harmonized speed recommendation on how to traverse through a corridor without stopping at a direct light or you get a warning if a pedestrian is stepping into the intended path.

All of these technologies, you see hardware components, but you see a lot of software. Software-as-a-service systems running in the background, utilizing artificial intelligence or any type of latest technology in order to increase safety and improved mobility.

Claire Charlton:

So Eric, let's talk about Siemens Mobility here in Michigan. There is an increasing footprint for Siemens Mobility here, and last year Siemens announced a new office in Sterling Heights. Can we talk about that office? I believe that you work there?

Eric Gannaway:

I do. I do. And fortunately, I was actually the first person that was hired into that office. And I've called this, and we've coined it, "Siemens' Commitment to Michigan." And the reason we've done that, Siemens actually has the traffic controller in 90% of the signalized intersections in the state of Michigan. So there's thousands of traffic signals that are controlled by Siemens' equipment. There was a change in the way that equipment was distributed. And when they did, Siemens said, "We're not just going to sell controllers in Michigan anymore. We're going to service the ITS industry completely."

And by doing that, some of the things Marcus has and will talk about, are some of the products that we sell and distribute. We don't do the installation. We sell to cities, MDOT, municipalities, counties, and contractors that do that work. But to give you an idea, one of the products that is very unique, becoming more unique, and Michigan is really starting to embrace it, and that's the roadside unit. Marcus describes a little box that you just happen to see high up on a pole in an intersection. And in that box, it contains Bluetooth communication, wi-fi communication, DSRC or dedicated short range communication.

And that's the communication that's talking to vehicles right now. There's a GPS unit. There's a cell modem in there too. So every form of communication's there, giving the motoring public the opportunity to communicate with the intersection, and for the vehicles to communicate with one another. If a vehicle looks like it's going to run — let me just say, if it's a connected vehicle — it could be running a red light, and an oncoming vehicle will get a notice on its onboard unit or in the vehicle itself, saying there's a red light runner. So that's part of the connectivity that we talked about when we talked about connected vehicles.

So between that, the traffic controller, and now the traffic signals themselves, we sell every aspect. When you pull up to an intersection, everything that's there that controls traffic, along with the brains, along with a software that optimizes traffic, everything that's involved, we've done that. And it's the commitment that Siemens made here that uniquely, they haven't made anywhere in the country, like they've made this commitment in Michigan. And they've really committed millions of dollars to doing that.

Claire Charlton:

OK. And now I believe, if I understand correctly, Macomb County is a pretty advanced place, with regard to connected intersections and its roadway infrastructure. And is that the reason why Siemens made such a commitment here in Michigan, is because of Macomb County?

Eric Gannaway:

No, it's not. Although, we're happy to be a part of that. And I will say that in Macomb County's means of really putting in cutting edge technology, we're actually adding another 180 roadside units just into the near future into Macomb County. As they have this "build it, and they will come" attitude. If you're ready for autonomous vehicles and connected vehicles and you have the infrastructure, people will come, vehicles will show up, the automotive companies will do the testing there, and that's what's happening. But we just happened to pick a location in Macomb County, because it was the right place we felt to service our customers. And of course, one of those is Macomb County.

Claire Charlton:

OK, so it was a happy accident.

Marcus Welz:

Just to add on that Claire, maybe. Of course one of the reasons we have invested in Michigan, is just the fact that there is a very exciting market with forward-looking government entities. Whether this is Michigan DOT, whether this is Macomb County, Oakland County, city of Detroit or whomever, all of the players in the industry, and also from the city and public-sector perspective, really looking for ways on how to use technology as an enabler for the benefit of the people and to improve traffic. And this is a perfect ecosystem for us, right? We really enjoy the ecosystem, not only with the public sector, but also with OEMs, which are certainly local universities and startups. It's a great environment for us, and this is why we have localized also engineering services and assembly competences, in order to be a strong partner in that ecosystem, and grow together with the ecosystem, applying our technologies and services

Eric Gannaway:

Along with all of that, with what Macomb County happens to be doing and the installation of roadside units, Siemens does something that's very unique in their roadside unit, and it actually has the ability to create algorithms and to gather information that helps optimize traffic. And we have a product called Travel Sense that is incorporated in our roadside units. And when Macomb County puts a Travel Sense unit in, it gives them the ability to track travel times, how long it takes a vehicle to get from one place to another. Origin destination, knowing when they did the construction on M-59, they wanted to know where people were coming from, and where they were going to. And that roadside unit was able to communicate with vehicles, even though they weren't connected vehicles. Just by tracking the MAC address on wi-fi enabled devices. So with Macomb County's expansion of putting in roadside units, it helps them optimize traffic. They know that if they've got construction on M-59, and people are diverted to 23 Mile Road, for example, they can literally watch traffic, see where the bottlenecks are, check the travel time and make on-the-fly decisions to readjust traffic, so we're not waiting at lights first for an unreasonable amount of times, and traffic isn't backing up. That's one of the unique features that's offered in the Siemens RSU, and we're really happy with this big expansion that's going into Macomb County one more time.

Claire Charlton:

So if I understand correctly, not only do individual motorists and pedestrians benefit from the connected infrastructure that Siemens is helping to provide. But also, Macomb County's ability to track and optimize traffic movement is enhanced as well. Is that correct?

Eric Gannaway:

That's absolutely correct.

Claire Charlton:

OK. OK.

Eric Gannaway:

Yes. In fact, the neat thing, and I think the foresight that Macomb County had, is when they put the RSUs in. Giving them the ability to optimize traffic, well before the motoring public had the opportunity to take advantage of that technology. They're not just spending the money. And there's been many times that people will say, "Why are we making this investment? People aren't using it. We're not there with vehicles." But Macomb County has had the foresight to say, "We can put it in, we can take advantage." And they do have an obligation to optimize traffic until cars drive by themselves. They're not just spending money on the future. They're actually making an investment today, that's future-proofing the ability for vehicles to move, as we move forward.

Claire Charlton:

And it's not just convenience, but it's really about reducing traffic accidents, incidents and deaths on our roads. And I'm sure that Siemens is committed to that end as well.

Eric Gannaway:

Well, we are. The whole traffic industry revolves around safety. And with all the money, the hundreds of millions of dollars that are being spent on connected infrastructure right now, the attitude is if it saves one life, it's worth it. It's a great attitude, but it's all built right around safety. Everything that we do is in that mindset, that we're trying to make traffic move safer, move more continuously, let vehicles communicate with one another. Where the human error falls out, we're hoping that we can help eliminate that by allowing cars to be able to tell each other when the roads slippery. Tell each other when there's an accident, have the ability to tell a vehicle that you should go a different way because there's danger in this area.

And we're demonstrating that all over the country. We're doing it in Tampa, in a grand scale. We're going to be doing it at other areas, in Miami, but we're doing it in New York City. And in these areas, it's all about trying to prevent. It's two things. Trying to prevent anybody from dying. And then, trying to help it make it a more pleasant traveling experience for you and I, by not having to have unwanted stops, to wait too long, and just to be able to optimize traffic.

Claire Charlton:

Wonderful. Thank you so much for talking with me. Marcus, do you have anything else that you'd like people to know about Siemens Mobility and Intelligent Traffic Systems?

Marcus Welz:

Our vision really is to build a mobility operating system for smart cities, based on data-driven digital traffic and fleet management. It's one where the infrastructure becomes more intelligent and can use real-time data to make traffic more efficient. This involves both the infrastructure, because the answer to more cars cannot be building more roads. We need to consume the infrastructure more efficiently, but it also consumes fleet management and multimodal transportation. And ultimately, with the road user centered approach. We are building technologies such as Mobility as a Service, where people can take their smartphone, plan a trip, book a trip, and pay a trip from one truly integrated app. And we have integrated public transport system, as well as privately owned mobility operating systems such as Uber and Lyft, carsharing, bikesharing in one platform. And these are the technologies where we believe can really make a difference in urban communities.

Eric Gannaway:

I think the chip-to-city story is such a great story, which sets Siemens apart from anybody. And I don't know if you want to just take a minute and just give a synopsis of what that means, because there isn't anybody in the industry that starts with the inception, the very beginning, the chip itself. And that validation, it takes it all the way to the infrastructure and vehicles communicating with one another through vehicle design and everything else.

Marcus Welz:

Yeah, absolutely. I mentioned early on that one of the reasons why we are in Michigan is also the ecosystem with the OEMs. And actually, also the broader ecosystem of Siemens, we have a sister division, which is focusing on product life cycle management software for the OEMs to actually build cars. And this goes from wire harness systems to electric propulsion systems, all the way to self-driving vehicles and software solutions. Where actually, the OEMs get millions and millions of miles in the virtual world on a digital twin. And then, we connect the world from the OEMs and from the chips and simulation and verification software in the cars. All the way to the roadside infrastructure, building the connectivity part to the city.

We have talked a lot about this today. But also then, adding other mobility services in order to enable seamless transportation, so that you can use your self-driving vehicle to go from A to B. And then from B to C, you may take a scooter, or you jump into a bus. And making such a trip seamlessly happen in an integrated way, where really, for a road user, it becomes very easy to also use the car only for one element or maybe eventually leave it at home. This is our vision, and this is how we utilize the power of Siemens with all the technologies we have in our system.

Claire Charlton:

Thank you so much Eric and Marcus, for joining me today for Driven's Mobility Moments Podcast.

Eric Gannaway:

Claire, thank you.

Marcus Welz:

Great to be here, Claire.

 

Special thanks to Marcus Welz, CEO of Siemens Mobility Intelligent Traffic Systems and Eric Gannaway, senior sales executive with Siemens Mobility in Sterling Heights.

This is Driven's Mobility Moments Podcast, where we talk with the people building the mobility ecosystem in the Detroit region. Want to know more? Visit us at Driven, www.detroitdriven.us, for news, features, podcasts, and more. Subscribe to our newsletter.

Thanks so much for listening. I'm Claire Charlton.

Photos courtesy of Siemens.








 
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