FutureStructure

New Jersey Turns to Internet of Things to Improve Roadway Safety

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority has started using a program to help minimize congestion and improve traffic flow on the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway -- just in time for Memorial Day weekend.

by / May 21, 2015
Transportation operator Robert Strauss uses traffic management software in the New Jersey Turnpike Authority's Command and Control Center that helps manage traffic and congestion on the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway, two of the most heavily traveled highways and busiest toll roads in the United States. Mike McLaughlin/Feature Photo Service for IBM

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority (NJTA) announced it is working with IBM on a multi-year program that will utilize Internet of Things (IoT) technology and data to better manage vehicular traffic and improve roadway safety.

Together, NJTA and IBM have created an Advanced Traffic Management Program (ATMP) that includes a centralized, federated command and control system to help minimize congestion and improve traffic flow on the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway -- just in time for  Memorial Day weekend, which tends to kick off the summer travel season across the country.

The New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway together form an incredibly complex transportation system with 325 miles of highway, which in some sections accommodate 14 lanes of traffic. On a typical day, more than 2 million vehicles travel the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway  – making it one of the busiest roadways in the U.S. There are 28 interchanges on the turnpike and 359 entrances and exits on the parkway.

The ATMP will leverage an Internet of Things approach to enable NJTA to collect and leverage data to enhance a variety of aspects of roadway operations.

Over the past several years, in connection with its $3.3 billion widening to the highways, New Jersey installed more than 3,000 sensors along the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway. Operators know from signals sent by the sensors embedded in the roadways that speeds are dropping in specific locations, indicating that that an accident has occurred or congestion is developing. In addition, digital alert signs have been deployed every three miles on the turnpike and every five miles on the parkway.

The ATMP will provide traffic management professionals a single, comprehensive view of all signs at their command and provide them access to tools necessary for management of information. Connecting a wide array of systems into a central location that is both dynamic and intelligent will enable NJTA to quickly react and respond to real-time information about roadway conditions. They can then immediately update speed limits and travel messages to drivers.

“This is one of the most advanced systems of its kind,” said Rich Teitelbaum, IBM client executive for New Jersey government. “The technology uses on-screen, at-a-glance views that allow NJTA employees to see, understand and respond to an overwhelming number of variables that contribute to traffic congestion.”

The new system provides central management of approximately 900 devices that include: variable message (VMS), drum (CM) and portable signs, in addition to newly designed hybrid (VMS/Drum) displays and traffic cameras.

“Just as the Internet was first made up of a network of computers, a network of smart devices makes up the Internet of Things, and it will fundamentally change how we drive, and more importantly, how we live,” said Teitelbaum. “It’s impossible to reduce collisions and traffic jams to zero, but these data-driven capabilities will significantly improve both safety and service. Even when congestion occurs, motorists will have the information they need to put them in control of the situation, and that will result in a much better travel experience.”

Using an IoT approach will also allow the NJTA to easily add new functionality to the road system in the future, such as advanced analytics and predictive capabilities.

By 2030, traffic congestion is expected to cost the U.S. economy more than $186 billion, according to a study by INRIX and the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

“U.S. transportation systems are at a crossroads, where advancements in physical and digital infrastructure are creating new intelligent and forward-thinking approaches to intelligently managing traffic, to make users and vehicles across all modes of transportation move in safer, smarter and more sustainable ways,” Teitelbaum said. “The growing demand for connectivity and the availability of massive amounts of data is transforming the entire ecosystem for the transportation industry.”

Transportation authorities around the world are inquiring about this type of system, Teitelbaum said, considering it for the ability to provide insight and help future-proof roadways for increased growth.

“With the proliferation of mobile devices and the ability to analyze quintillions of data generated daily," he said, "cities are in a position to better understand traffic flow and how citizens use their transportation networks and improve upon them from the use of data."

Justine Brown Contributing Writer