Traffic signs on S.R. 224 part of in-vehicle traffic app development
Electronic traffic signs along S.R. 224 have been informing commuters of their travel times to Park City and Interstate 80 over the last several weeks as part of a project a Utah-based company is spearheading to develop an in-vehicle app.
Blyncsy, a startup that delivers data on the movement of people to improve the traffic grid, targeted Summit County and Park City because of the propensity for traffic congestion along one of the main entry corridors into the city, particularly during the Sundance Film Festival.
Mark Pittman, CEO of Blyncsy, suspects that around 2023 most major automakers will start introducing connected vehicle technology into most vehicles. He said the infrastructure will provide information to drivers about things like the car in front of them slamming on their brakes or a warning that a bridge ahead has iced over.
Blyncsy has partnered with Park City, Summit County, the Utah Department of Transportation and the University of Utah to develop a specific in-vehicle app to improve the traffic grid. The app would provide drivers with real-time information about how long it will take to reach their destination from various routes. The information would inform the public how to change their behaviors for a better driving experience. Utah Science Technology and Research (USTAR) is providing the funding for the project.
Park City was the first area where Blyncsy’s propriety sensor technology was deployed in 2015, Pittman said. The current project utilizes those already-existing sensors and additional ones put in place between Kimball Junction and Park City to register speed and communicate travel times along the corridor.
The sensors pick up details from Bluetooth technology in cars to say, “We saw this device at this location and it took people this long to go this far,” Pittman said.
“The first thing we are doing is finding applications to display to the public what the travel times are today,” he said. “Later, we will be able to display this information in vehicles and the signs will no longer be needed. The car itself will become the sign.”
The Blyncsy signs will be in place on S.R. 224 conveying traffic times to commuters for about six months. Pittman said the idea is to have them there through the peak season.
“We are hoping Summit County, Park City and S.R. 224 will be an innovation hotbed and in 2019 we may see the installation of connected vehicle technology on that roadway to communicate travel times to the public,” he said.
The technology would only be available in vehicles that are properly equipped and it would be considered an after-market product. Pittman said there are a few cars on the market today that can pick up the technology, including the 2017 Cadillac CTS and other newer Cadillac models.
Pittman said real-time traffic information helps alleviate drivers’ frustration when they are sitting in traffic. He said UDOT tries to convey accurate information to the public at all times, for example on Interstate 80, to let commuters know what is happening on the road in real time.
“It lets you know how long you will be sitting there,” he said. “We are hoping that information will be available on other roadways so when you are driving down the road you are getting more accurate information about what the roads are doing and how they are responding.”
Pittman said the technology provides more accurate information compared with current smartphone apps because it is gathered from 70 percent of the population, as opposed to only using data from active users.
Pittman emphasized that “this is just the beginning” of this technology application. He said the technology could later be used to turn traffic signals green for emergency vehicles or even buses, something UDOT has already done. He said if a bus is running behind, the technology could be used to turn the lights green to allow the bus to get back on schedule. But, it wouldn’t be used if the bus has no riders.
“That is the vision for what we are doing,” he said. “It is an autonomous intelligence transportation system that is self-healing and self-correcting. Summit County and Park City have always been at the forefront of cutting-edge technologies to try and alleviate traffic congestion and pollution. As a taxpayer or resident, I would be incredibly proud of my community. They are really leading the nation here in testing out these applications to make our community better.”
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