Viewpoints

Creating smart communities in southern Nevada

By Larry Brown
 

Like other communities, the Las Vegas Valley is expected to grow dramatically. The region’s population of 2.1 million is expected to burgeon over the next decade, along with its annual 43 million visitors. This growth poses significant challenges for a transportation system to keep pace with the demands of more people and vehicles needing to get around safely and efficiently.

Working to meet those challenges is the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC). It became Southern Nevada’s metropolitan planning organization (MPO) in 1981, launched the region’s fixed route transit system in 1992 and assumed administration of the region’s traffic management system in 2004. Most recently, the RTC became administrator of Southern Nevada Strong a federally recognized plan to build complete communities that provide transportation choices, employment opportunities, housing options and quality education.  

Given its many responsibilities, the RTC is well positioned to forge public/private, multi-jurisdictional and intergovernmental partnerships to develop and implement forward-thinking plans and leverage technology to create a transportation system that is the foundation of a “smart community” and positions the region for sustainable economic prosperity.

RTC has leveraged advanced transportation technologies – such as connected and autonomous vehicles, shared mobility and intelligent infrastructure – to create smart and connected communities that will improve mobility, enhance safety and reduce congestion.

For example, the RTC’s Traffic Management Center encompasses all of the region’s jurisdictions to become an integrated Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) operation. As a result, it is easier for technology companies to partner with the RTC to test and deploy products that require connection to traffic signals, monitors and data. Audi selected Southern Nevada to debut it first-of-its-type Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I) technology in large part because of the RTC’s centralized traffic management center as opposed to other locales that have a patchwork of traffic management systems and agencies.

Using Audi’s “Time to Green” feature, a vehicle receives real time information on the amount of time before a traffic light will change in the driver’s instrument cluster or heads-up display. The information eventually can be integrated with a vehicle’s start/stop behavior, navigation system to optimize routing and predictive services, such as speed recommendations to maximize the number of green lights a driver can make in sequence. Those services are designed to either improve efficiency, drive time or traffic management. At the same time, the RTC receives anonymous traffic signal timing data from the connected vehicle to help better manage congestion on crowded roadways.

The RTC pursues similar multi-jurisdictional, public/private coordination to introduce various smart technologies that offer viable solutions to Southern Nevada‘s transportation challenges. For example, in an effort to help improve safety and efficiency on freeways and major arterials by compiling and analyzing data to report in real-time the location of accidents and predict where dangerous driving conditions or congestion may occur, the RTC, along with the Nevada Highway Patrol (NHP) and Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT), have partnered with Waycare. Southern Nevada is the first test location in the U.S. for the innovative technology that enables faster validation and response to roadway incidents as well as a more efficient use of resources to proactively deploy traffic patrols and abatement efforts with the goal of preventing incidents. With the use of the Waycare platform, we are detecting crashes and incidents up to 12 minutes faster.

Another exceptionally successful pilot project has been in partnership with the city of Las Vegas, AAA and Keolis. The RTC provides traffic signal data to the country’s first self-driving shuttle that is fully integrated with smart city infrastructure and operates in mixed traffic along a half mile loop in downtown Las Vegas. Over the course of the year-long pilot, the self-driving shuttle aims to provide a quarter-million residents and visitors of Las Vegas with a first-hand experience of autonomous vehicle technology, exposing most riders to the technology for the first time. People have embraced the shuttle, which averages 150 riders per day and has transported more than 23,000 passengers so far.

By offering the public a firsthand experience with a self-driving shuttle, the pilot project is helping the public become more comfortable with autonomous vehicles while enabling the RTC, the city of Las Vegas, and project partners to understand the customer experience and learn more about how autonomous vehicles operate in mixed traffic so they can be deployed for public use in the future. The project also will aid in the development of standards for how government can share data with vehicles, as federal standards don't currently exist. Most importantly, this initiative is helping to pave the way to reap the global benefits of autonomous vehicles, including improved traffic flow, greater mobility, reduced emissions and enhanced safety.

These cutting-edge projects as well as an enduring collaborative spirit will enable our region to work together to take full advantage of the benefits advanced technology can bring to not only transportation but all elements of our society. It is clear that technology knows no boundaries, and by taking similar collaborative and regional approaches, other communities can also leverage technology to address the challenges they face. By working together, we can build a truly smart community for everyone.
 

Larry Brown is Clark County Commissioner and Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) Chairman.

 

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