Connected Cars: What Can We Expect?

The term “connected cars” is one you’ll often hear alongside the latest advancements in the auto industry–like driverless cars. But the concept isn’t actually all that new. The first iteration of a connected car hit the market back in 1996 with the introduction of OnStar. Cell phones of the time weren’t as reliable or prevalent as they are today, so OnStar gave drivers in a pinch a way to communicate with a call center with reliability. Two decades later and cell phones are far away from what they used to be–and so are connected cars. Today, having your vehicle connected to bluetooth and GPS has become standard. In an age of rapid advancement, we quickly become accustomed, even jaded, to the kind of tech that would raise eyebrows just a few years ago. But if we zoom our perspective out a bit, the headway made in just 20 years is nothing short of astounding. And the technologies to define the next phase of connected cars promise to be even more impressive and impactful.

Here are a few of the most talked about technologies currently in development:

Vehicle-to-Vehicle

Vehicles that communicate with one another will be able to share data of travel speeds, construction, road hazards, and more. Plus, getting “cut-off” by other drivers will be a thing of the past since you’d know what they to you plan to do before they do it. This ought to ease driver tension while also reducing congestion and accidents by preventing unpredictable and frustrating stop-and-go situations.

Vehicle-to-Infrastructure

Many experts believe that all new vehicles will be equipped with vehicle-to-infrastructure capability as early as 2023. This would allow your car to communicate with things like traffic signals, parking meters, and gas pumps to name a few. You could find parking quickly and conduct transactions without leaving your car. You’d also kiss waiting at red lights with no other cars in sight goodbye.

Vehicle-to-Brain

You read that right. While this certainly won’t be of interest to some drivers, vehicle-to-brain technology will have practical applications. Communication will be delivered by way of a driver-worn headset fitted with electrodes. This would allow your vehicle to alert you of abrupt lane changes or sound off an alert when it detects you getting drowsy.

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BlueTOAD and Coachella – Strange Bedfellows?

Not so strange at all, when you consider that some 100,000 fans attend the music festival during  each day of the two weekend event, and most of those arrive in a motor vehicle. Translation: TRAFFIC! Snarling traffic on I-10 and state roads as attendees arrive, producing another travel challenge – PARKING! What’s a concert organizer to do?

This year, Coachella did a smart thing. It partnered with TrafficCast International, installing  a dozen temporary BlueTOAD Spectra devices which allowed festival organizers to see traffic patterns during different times of the day, and thus anticipate and plan traffic management accordingly.

Here’s from BlueTOAD headquarters: 

Although the Coachella music festival has been around for almost twenty years, there has been very little data available for traffic management planning prior to and during the festival. A traffic management strategy is much more effective when coordinators have an idea of drivers’ preferred routes, peak hours, travel times and speeds.

For 2018, the city of Indio, in partnership with the Coachella Valley Association of Governments (CVAG), Advantec Consulting and TrafficCast International, proposed using TrafficCast’s BlueTOAD Spectra travel-time solution to address that lack.

Coachella aimed to collect accurate travel-time data and arterial speeds on three (3) of the major roadways leading to the concert grounds from Interstate 10 – the main access freeway in Coachella Valley. Employing BlueTOAD’s capability to collect and predict traffic patterns, Indio Traffic Engineering, Indio Police Department and the concert promoter were not only able to manage traffic approaching the festival better than in previous years, but also offer traffic information to the driving public. 

Collected by BlueTOAD Spectra devices, comprehensive travel time data was made available to Indio’s traffic management team via the real-time, web-based reporting software, BlueARGUS, enabling planners to create comparison reports and conduct origin-destination studies. This helped identify peak hours and preferred routes to the venue as well as compare route speeds and travel time, day to day and even weekend to weekend.

 

Other valuable data was also made available, such as that concert attendees stayed an average 38 hours over the weekend.

In addition to providing this data, TrafficCast International worked behind the scenes creating a mobile app via its existing TrafficCarma app. Partnering with iHeart Media, the app, known as TotalTraffic, was promoted on iHeart’s many stations encouraging concert goers to download the app or simply visit CoachellaTraffic.com. There, users selected their preferred routes and received travel time and speed information.

 

The end results? Far greater visibility on current traffic conditions and an amazing amount of data to reference for any strategy changes during the 2018 festival as well as consideration for future festivals. The most rewarding aspect of the project is perhaps the availability of useful information to the driving public. We all like choices. And traffic officials say informed drivers with a choice of viable routes along with travel times, are less inclined to speed. After all, safe and efficient roadways is what successful traffic management is all about, and TrafficCast, with BlueTOAD Spectra and BlueARGUS, is happy to contribute to that success. 

“Improve the Commute” Winners

Birds chirping as you drive past a local park; a smart alarm that lovingly reminds you to get going, you’re going to be late, and a student-focused carpool app were only a few of the innovations submitted to Future of the Commute: TrafficCast Design Challenge. Winners were announced in Philadelphia last month, and Technically Philly covered it. Who won the cash awards? Read here:

https://technical.ly/philly/2018/07/30/we-asked-you-to-hack-the-commute-and-you-did-not-disappoint/

 

3 Modes of Transportation Set to Change the World

If you’ve been following the transportation industry lately, you’ve noticed our future is edging closer and closer to science-fiction.  And it’s happening rapidly. Just a few years back self-driving cars sounded like a pipe dream–now they’re driving around several major cities. A decade ago, electric cars seemed impractical due to short range charges. Today, batteries last much longer, charging stations are way more prevalent, and some countries are even developing solar powered roads to charge electric cars as they drive. With these changes (along with everything else in this technology-driven age) we know better than to say “never” to even the seemingly far-fetched ideas. It’s a healthy perspective when wading through the latest mobility news.

Here are 3 modes of transportation set to change the world:

Hyperloop

Originally the idea of Twitter’s favorite entrepreneur, Elon Musk, the Hyperloop concept is a sealed capsule propelled through a vacuum tube by way of magnetic levitation. This low pressure chamber eliminates drag, allowing the capsule to travel at extremely high speeds. Since Musk’s initial proposal of the idea back in 2013, several other companies have taken on development of the hyperloop, including Virgin Hyperloop One whose capsule currently clocks in at speeds near 400 mph. This would cut a four-day truck haul down to 16 hoursThe hyperloop would also be open to regular commuters as well.  It’ll be years before a hyperloops are prevalent, but the CEO of HTT says their system will be open by 2020.

Urban transport pods

You’ve heard of self-driving cars, but what about pods? Rather than purchasing their own self-driving cars, commuters could one day hop into an autonomous shuttle, type in their destination, and kick back until they arrive. London has been trialing driverless pods for over a year with the goal of understanding how they would fit into the city’s existing travel infrastructure. They’ve ferried over 5,000 passengers and according to a survey of 1,000 passengers, 43% said they felt confident about the technology. Similar transport pods are being tested in Dubai, Germany, and France. It’s still unclear when pods would be running regularly through cities, but given the rapid advancement of the tech and public approval, we could see them in the 2020’s.

Flying Cars

We’ve all been hearing about driverless cars since before the Jetsons. But it wasn’t until recently that we began seeing the first signs that this method of transportation will not only be possible, but likely quite prevalent. Large, luxury automakers like Rolls-Royce and Aston-Martin have revealed their concepts for personal-use flying cars, both of which can hit speeds of 200+ mph. Uber and NASA have also teamed up to develop flying taxis. Their ride-sharing network could go public as early as 2020.    

Fire Alarm

Summer is fire season west of the Mississippi, and as flames sweep up and down hills and mountain-sides, roads open and close. Through it all, TrafficCast International’s team of traffic data editors deliver up-to-the-minute information about roads traveled by millions across the affected areas. 

Nature is beautiful and brutal and endlessly fascinating. In Oregon, at the Silver Falls State Park about 20 miles southeast of Salem, firefighters have been able to encircle and thus control the spread of the 27 acres of the Silver Creek Fire. Night crews used infra-red cameras to help identify hot spots. The heavily forested area is located away from major roads, although state highway 38, which was closed for days, is reopened. While some trails remained closed, waterfall areas are open to visitors during park hours. This fire was thought to have been started by lightning; there have been no injuries or fatalities.

Also in Oregon, the Substation Fire flared up around The Dalles, roaring through 109 miles and closing state highway 206 and US 97.  Roads were reopened and the fire was 82% contained by July 22. Evacuations have been lowered to level one.

Some fires limit visibility or even close interstate highways. In Colorado, I-70 near mountain passes closed periodically due fires that flared up and then subsided. During the past two weeks, drivers on CO-82 near Basalt, have been warned of poor visibility, but the highway has remained opened. Downstate, by Telluride, US-550 is opened to alternating lanes of traffic after having been closed in June. Now the problem is landslides, due at least in part to loss of vegetation from wildfires.  

The Klamathon Fire, in northern California and southern Oregon, which had closed Interstate 5 for a time, is 96% contained.

In Southern California, The Valley Fire which started on July 6th is 29% contained, and while more than 100 fire personnel plus 5 engines, 3 helicopters and 3 water tenders remain assigned to battle and contain the fire, no homes or structures have been damaged. Eleven state and local agencies contribute fire control support, including CALFIRE, San Bernardino Animal Control  and the American Red Cross.

The Grant Fire which threatened the Altamont Pass east of San Francisco was started by two teenagers with fireworks. The teens remorsefully turned themselves in to the Manteca Police Department; one is being charged with negligence. The fire lasted less than 24 hours, but shut down I-580 through the Altamont Pass in both directions for several hours while it blazed.

These incidences provide only a snapshot of what firefighters and law enforcement officers in Western states are facing in summer, 2018 as they coordinate evacuations and road closures. There are many days of summer and hot weather ahead. Through it all, TrafficCast’s traffic operations department provides up to the minute records on road and highway closings and openings. These records help the public know if and when they can use public roads and return to their homes as fires rage and subside.

by Susan McKinney

Da Mayor is in the house!

Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki visited The Mill in Wilmington, which houses TrafficCast’s Eastern offices, and posted this:

“Had the pleasure to meet with Al McGowan & Sil Scaglione of TrafficCast International yesterday at their offices at The Mill Space here in #WilmDE. Their amazing systems and staff are the tech and power behind the GPS apps we love and utilize every day. So proud to have them here #inWilm and look forward to what’s to come next from these amazing folks!
Thanks for the welcome, Mayor Purzycki!

3 Car Tech Features to Look for Your Next Day at the Dealership

Many of the conversations in transportation today revolve around driverless cars, and for good reason–autonomous tech stands to completely transform the way travel and how we live. But it’s going to be at least a few years before they’re available to consumers. That’s not to say vehicles aren’t already undergoing some radical changes though. There are some exceptionally cool and helpful technology features available in new cars today. True, some may only be available in higher-end vehicles currently, but it likely won’t be long until they transition to vehicles for the masses.

Below are a few of our favorites we think you should keep an eye out for the next time you find yourself on the car lot:

Night-Vision

People are afraid of things that go bump in the night–especially when it involves their pexels-photo-1033307car. If you’ve ever experienced that “I hope something doesn’t jump out in front of me right now” kind of anxiety, you’ll be happy to hear about night-vision for vehicles. Audi’s night vision assistant highlights pedestrians and animals using thermal imaging. BMW, Mercedes, and Cadillac also have their own form of night vision available in some models.

Blind Spot Alert

Not checking your blind spot is dangerous. Checking your blind spot going 70 miles per hour on the highway doesn’t feel all that much safe either, but it’s a necessary evil. Fortunately new blind spot detection features are making for safer merging. Mercedes-Benz has a new blind spot assist will audibly warn the driver if they try to merge with someone in their blind spot and even apply the brakes if needed.

WiFi Connectivity

Many automakers are adding WiFi connectivity to new models, turning cars into rolling hotspots. This is great for passengers who want to play music, watch videos, or just browse the internet without draining their battery. Or if you find yourself in a new town or city and looking for something to do, you can park your car and investigate rather than looking for WiFi.

This is a small sample of some of the coolest technology that’s come to vehicles recently. To stay on top of all the newest technology and other transportation news, follow us on Twitter.

Jake Ritzheimer, TrafficCast International, East Coast Operations