4 Tech Speed Bumps to Avoid on the Road to Connected Transportation Systems

Posted on December 20, 2017 by Kyle Connor - Also by this author

To handle more connections and data, cities must transition transportation systems to more scalable network infrastructures with greater computing power and bandwidth.
To handle more connections and data, cities must transition transportation systems to more scalable network infrastructures with greater computing power and bandwidth.
The race is on to prepare for and deploy hyper-connected transportation systems that promise safer, more efficient and more sustainable cities and states. However, there is still a great deal of work to be done to support not only the 380 million connected vehicles expected to hit the roads by 2020, but also the arrival of automated parking garages, buses and trains that serve as Wi-Fi hotspots, smart roadways equipped with millions of sensors and many more new and exciting transportation technologies enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT).

While physical assets and roadside infrastructure are a vital part of connected transportation systems, in many cities and states, it is the underlying technology network that is most lagging. For instance, as “smart” traffic signals and digital signage communicate with vehicles on the road to share traffic or weather data we need the proper networking infrastructures and data architectures to ensure such information is not only transmitted securely in real-time, but also to aggregate and analyze that data on a broader scale. Through data analytics, we can uncover new ways to improve efficiencies that impact entire cities and their constituents. To innovate faster and enjoy these benefits, cities and states must first overcome the following four technology speedbumps on their roads to fully connected transportation systems.

1.    Outdated networks: First and foremost, current transportation networks are often built on closed, proprietary or legacy systems. These networks simply cannot handle the myriad connections and the prolific amounts of data they generate (to provide some perspective, just one connected vehicle produces 25 gigabytes of data per hour). Also, it is exceptionally difficult for legacy networks to assimilate and share data from different infrastructure assets, which all run on disparate technology platforms.

Through data analytics, we can uncover new ways to improve efficiencies that impact entire cities and their constituents.

To handle more connections and their data, cities must transition their transportation systems to modern, more scalable network infrastructures with greater computing power and bandwidth. And, by building a multiservice network, it is much easier to integrate multiple different technologies and disparate data sources onto a single platform. This allows data from connected vehicles, traffic signals, mass transit systems, weather monitoring systems and more to function on the same infrastructure.
 
2.    Cybersecurity threats: As cities continue to adopt connected transportation systems and more assets are connected, the cyberattack surface grows, especially during the unavoidable transition to modern networks. If unaddressed, these security vul-nerabilities could cause significant and potentially dangerous disruptions. No one wants to see a hacker shut down public transit services, alter traffic signals or remotely operate pieces of a city’s transportation infrastructure. To safeguard their systems, transportation leaders must build security into new networks from day one, and ensure it spans from the data centers to the hardened infrastructure assets at the edge of the network, and everywhere in between — even in-vehicle systems.

The best way to handle data privacy concerns is for cities to develop and implement appropriate processes and policies.
The best way to handle data privacy concerns is for cities to develop and implement appropriate processes and policies.

Fortunately, transportation officials can leverage existing frameworks rather than creating policies and procedures from scratch. The Department of Transportation’s reference designs for connected and automated vehicle systems and the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cyber Security are great places to start. Also, joining an information sharing and analysis center like the surface transportation ISAC will help transportation officials stay abreast of the latest threats. Moreover, municipalities should begin making ongoing investments in cybersecurity, much like they prioritize safety in capital and operational planning today.

3.    Data privacy: With data security comes data privacy issues. The big question is: who owns the data collected by connected transportation systems? If a traffic signal is communicating with and collecting data from one’s personal vehicle, for instance, who has the right to control or access that individual’s information? These are difficult questions to answer across any industry embracing IoT technology.
The best way to handle data privacy concerns is for cities to develop and implement appropriate processes and policies. Cities must address this issue upfront by establishing data privacy policies to determine who can access this information and when. Such policies must clearly address which parties get to use, access, share and monetize the data the different elements of a transportation system generate. Of course, strong cybersecurity plays a key role in ensuring these policies are stringently followed.

4.    Analytics and Insights: Once cities begin collecting connected transportation data – according to proper security and privacy processes – they need to extract value from the information that can benefit its citizens. For example, a traffic signal may communicate with connected vehicles to alert drivers to change speeds. But, by capturing and aggregating the data from those transmissions, transportation officials can gain actionable insights on the flow of traffic and make changes to physical assets to improve safety and efficiency in that particular intersection. Without advanced analytics, however, many transportation officials today are unsure how to gain the most value from the data they collect.

To overcome this challenge, cities and states must invest in IoT platforms that can aggregate data from all the various sensors, video cameras and other devices, and present it in an actionable manner for increased safety, operational efficiencies and more. The City of Linz in Austria is already experiencing impressive results result with advanced, real-time data analytics powered by an IoT platform. By analyzing data collected from public mass transit systems, Linz has successfully identified opportunities to optimize fleet management, improve driving, increase sustainability and more. Most notably, Linz has reduced energy consumption by 10 percent and carbon dioxide output by more than 490 tons. This shows how the benefits of a connected transportation system extend far beyond providing real-time traffic updates or helping locate parking spots — as long as powerful data analytics are involved.

Although we still have a long road ahead before our entire world is operating with fully connected transportation systems, preparations must begin now. As cities, like Linz, and states continue to pilot and deploy both public and private systems, they should focus on first overcoming the associated technology challenges – from network security to data analytics – to make significant headway in their journey.

Kyle Connor is a Transportation Industry Principal with Cisco (www.cisco.com).


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