Building a Smart Traffic Infrastructure in Palo Alto

By analyzing traffic patterns and parking availability, Palo Alto says it will not only make its streets safer and reduce congestion, but also play a part in the future of transportation.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor

But this type of adaptive traffic management also intersects with the Internet of Things, say Reichental and Hammadou, since carmakers are eager to collect any data that will enable them to build new types of intelligence into their connected-car systems. "Automotive companies are becoming data aggregators," Hammadou explains. "They want to capture data coming from intelligent infrastructure, and Tesla and Ford are coming to us and asking for data [regarding traffic flow and the presence of cyclists and pedestrians] to come directly to the dashboard in the car."

It is still very early days for that type of data sharing, Reichental notes, but Palo Alto's proximity to automotive research labs, such as those that General Motors, Ford, Tesla and Google operate in Silicon Valley, make it a good testing ground for this type of infrastructure-to-vehicle data structure.

Click on the above screenshot to view a larger version.
Palo Alto has also begun installing occupancy sensors in street parking spots throughout the city. The sensors, embedded into the asphalt, communicate to gateways via the ZigBee wireless mesh network protocol. The gateways transmit occupancy data to VIMOC's cloud-based servers via a cellular backhaul.

To date, only 60 spots sport the sensors, but 500 spots in the downtown area will eventually do so. According to Hammadou, Google-owned app developer Waze is currently evaluating the data and testing an integration that would direct drivers who use its navigation app to locate the closest available parking spots in Palo Alto. VIMOC also plans on "pushing the data to data aggregators working with automotive manufacturers as part of connected vehicle networks," he says, so that in-vehicle navigation systems can direct drivers to available parking as well.

All photos courtesy of VIMOC Technologies

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