Silicon Valley is known for coming up with new tech solutions to old problems. GPS minimized the chance of getting lost, cellphones let people know when they’re running late and the Internet has made working remotely a possibility.
Even with all these advances, vehicle traffic in California has gotten worse. Santa Clara in Silicon Valley has the second longest commute in the nation, by some estimates.
“It’s currently suffering under its own asphyxiation,” said Alexandre Bayen, director of UC Berkeley’s Transportation Initiative.
A panel discussion hosted by the University of California’s Institute of Transportation Studies in Sacramento on Tuesday discussed how data and the Internet of Things could change traffic.
The connected devices in each car, and eventually connected cars themselves, should enable companies to gather data about where people are going and when.
“We need the mobility pattern in order to get the requirements of what the transportation system needs to look like,” said Jane Macfarlane, director of the Smart Cities Center.
That data is used to map hot spots of where and when people are traveling.
Los Angeles is one of the first regions to use this kind of data gathering to respond to traffic patterns with a holistic approach, including travel demand, public transportation, roads and freeways.
“There’s no excuse for not being precise,” said Alexei Pozdnoukhov, co-director of Smart Cities Research Center at UC Berkeley.
Stakeholders of the project include Caltrans and Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology at UC Berkeley.
Panelists agreed that data gathering is necessary to improving transportation management, but best practices have not yet been established.
“Collect what we need, not what you can,” Macfarlane said about corporate data gathering.
Despite the availability of information, the lack of privacy and social implication research will slow the whole process, Pozdnukhov said. He estimates guidelines could take five to eight years to create.
Caltrans has also begun discussing similar programs that use data to adjust traffic light timing when incidents occur on highways in Northern California.
Caltrans is seeking vendors to provide off-the-shelf-software to manage its Connected Corridors program.