Connecting state and local government leaders
“We’re coming to the point where we’re going to have smart cars on dumb roads,” WayCare's CEO said.
The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, which includes Las Vegas, announced Monday plans to launch a pilot project for a predictive analytics platform that aggregates city data to predict traffic accidents and congestion up to two hours ahead of time.
Late last year, the state-funded Nevada Center for Advanced Mobility put out a request for information on smart technology to address pedestrian safety, and Israel-based, machine-learning company WayCare Technologies was one of the approximately 40 responses.
RTC’s Freeway & Arterial System of Transportation—a high-tech traffic management center that collocates staff and dispatch personnel from the commission, Nevada Department of Transportation, and state Highway Patrol—saw a need to integrate WayCare’s predictive analytics into operations.
“With the way city infrastructure is going, there is going to be more data available from individual cellphone users and vehicles,” NCAM Director Dan Langford told Route Fifty in an interview.
Data and other information from the navigation systems of connected vehicles, traffic sensors, historical trends, weather and special events all feeds into the WayCare platform, which then calculates the likelihood of certain incidents. Private partnerships also allow WayCare wirelessly access to in-vehicle data like location via users’ smartphones.
Local resources like police squad cars and tow trucks can then be strategically reallocated to deter or respond to situations within a two-mile stretch of highway.
“Every minute is an opportunity to enhance the safety,” Brian Hoeft, RTC’s traffic management director, said in a phone interview.
Currently operators are responsible for scanning cameras in the environment, and cities within the district are siloes in how they gather traffic data.
By comparison connected vehicles, including forthcoming self-driving cars, are expected to generate 200 times the data of all of Las Vegas’ road sensors in place today.
“We want to change the way they think about incident management from reactive to proactive,” WayCare CEO Noam Maital said in an interview.
WayCare’s platform will also be used to dissect when and how traffic delays are occurring.
Starting in September, after Labor Day when school is back in session, RTC will begin monitoring for six months two sections of freeway: the Interstate 15 resort corridor and U.S. 95, another highway in the Las Vegas area. The program will be scaled along more roadways if RTC sees results.
Part of the beauty of such a cloud-based software solution is that there’s no need for major infrastructure upgrades, Maital said, which require investing millions of dollars.
That said, the city of Henderson recently updated its traffic signals, and the increased amount of data from them will help the platform minimize delays.
“Communication across departments is also increased using a tool like this,” Langford said.
Las Vegas officials are in conversations to work even more closely with WayCare moving forward, Maital said.
With the private sector having already invested billions in autonomous vehicles, smart cities need to be prepared.
“We’re coming to the point where we’re going to have smart cars on dumb roads,” Maital said. “We’ve enabled the city and public sector to move in concert with the private sector.”
Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.