A newly forged research partnership aims to create “smarter transportation systems” to help alleviate traffic congestion and reduce accidents, while simultaneously generating cost savings and driving sustainable economic development.
IBM and the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) are joining forces to bring together research scientists, faculty and students to work with state and municipal agencies on exploring technologies and innovations to help solve transportation issues in Texas initially, then eventually worldwide.
In the near term, the collaboration will provide the opportunity for proofs of concept and extensive pilot deployments at the state and regional level, said Dennis Christiansen, TTI's agency director.
“Our goal in this collaboration with IBM is to remove barriers between industrial research, universities and transportation agencies and to foster collaborative, applied research between those groups,” he stressed. “In doing so, we will open the door to innovations that have the potential to improve the way our transportation systems work.”
Laura Wynter, transportation research scientist with IBM Research, noted that when it comes to addressing traffic problems today, transportation agencies are largely reactive — focusing largely on isolated incidents and single areas of congestion.
Through technologies such as road sensors and predictive analytics, transportation systems can be made smarter, allowing agencies to be more proactive in dealing with traffic issues, she said. For example, technologies exist today that make it possible to predict traffic conditions anywhere from an hour to 15 minutes in advance, providing drivers with valuable information on what is going to happen, rather than what has already happened, even before they get in their vehicles.
These efforts join with goals established by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation in its new five-year strategic plan released in April called Transportation for a New Generation.
“Advances in technology have the potential to positively impact transportation safety efforts over the next decade,” the agency said in its report, noting that advanced interoperable secure wireless data, voice and video systems are essential for deploying advanced transportation safety, security, emergency response and efficiency systems across all modes of transportation.