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Lidar, Connected Vehicle Data Collection Among Latest Las Vegas Deployments

A lidar implementation and a collection of connected vehicle data are two of Las Vegas' most recent tech initiatives in its downtown Innovation District.

The city of Las Vegas, which broke a 116-day dry streak with a downpour during the Consumer Electronics Show, highlighted new technology guiding vehicle and pedestrian traffic in its downtown Innovation District, at the annual event. Long a showcase for emerging tech and a point of pride for the city, this year's conference featured a separate, public-sector conference track, “Smart Cities: Thriving in the Future”; and city officials not only booked a booth, they also offered live traffic feeds from what they described as two promising deployments.

In December 2017, the city implemented Light Detection and Ranging (lidar) sensors from Quanergy through a partnership with Cisco, on East Clark Avenue between Second and Third streets. That’s an area one block east of City Hall, and with its own unique traffic challenges.

The Regional Justice Center at Clark and Third houses the Clark County Marriage License Bureau — and because Clark Avenue transitions from one-way to two-way traffic between the Center and City Hall, following street signs has long been a challenge for court visitors and the betrothed alike.

“When you’re distracted, when you’re in love and you’re trying to get here, there’s tunnel vision. So that was one scenario for ‘Why lidar?'” Las Vegas Director of Information Technology Michael Sherwood said in an interview.

“The issue was, we didn’t have enough data to know ‘OK, so there’s a few accidents. How many times are people going through that one-way that we don’t know about?’ Now, with lidar, we’re able to see cars coming in the wrong way. We’re able to have display signs in as the lidar sees it (and) automatically say ‘Wrong way. Turn around. Stop the car,’” Sherwood added.

He described the lidar rollout as the first of its kind.

The implementation combines Quanergy’s lidar sensors and Qortex perception software with Cisco’s Smart City Connected Roadway solution — using lasers to more accurately sense and map people and vehicles in 3-D.

“(It has a) 360-degree view, so you’re not just getting one vehicle or one pedestrian,” Michelle Maggiore, who leads transportation business development for Cisco's Smart and Connected Communities solutions, said.

The technology’s performance thus far has officials contemplating its potential use to trigger traffic signal timing near pedestrian-only Fremont Street, where people sometimes jaywalk through travel lanes.

But somewhat concurrently, and also through its work with Cisco, Las Vegas is also listening to communication from connected vehicles at seven intersections in the Innovation District.

This effort deploys Dedicated Short-Range Communication (DSRC) roadside devices from safe and connected vehicle solutions developer Cohda Wireless, Maggiore said, to obtain information ranging from airbag deployments to traction control issues.

“We are listening to public vehicles, which means any vehicle with a DSRC device can transmit vehicle-to-infrastructure information anonymously to a Cohda roadside unit,” Maggiore said via email, describing it as a “Phase 1 deployment.”

Cisco processes the data at the edge of the network to develop actionable information for city staffers in traffic, emergency response and maintenance, she added. This enables both entities to avoid having to migrate and warehouse the information in data centers.

During Las Vegas’ first rainstorm in nearly four months, on Jan. 9 during the first public day of CES 2018, the city received 78 alerts based on vehicle information from those seven intersections, which helped inform city officials of the storm’s impact.

“We had rain, and we immediately saw results,” Sherwood said, noting that traction control issues caused by the rain were among issues that vehicles communicated to the city. After CES, he said, the city plans to share the results to officials in public works and elsewhere.

The data, which is now viewed only by Cisco and city IT staff, should also be capable of being linked to information on air quality, idling times and crime, creating a more detailed image of life, and personal and vehicle movement in Las Vegas.

Successes here, Maggiore said, could help similar efforts elsewhere.

“Because we’re collecting that data and understanding it, we can go to other states and cities and say ‘Gee, we have a big problem with wrong-way drivers. What do you have?’ Las Vegas has deployed this stuff, shown that it works, is willing to talk about it,” she said.

But, Sherwood said, the city also needs to develop a training regimen and policy around the vehicle data, even though it is already anonymized, to better define its use and visibility.

“The next step is who sees it, when do they see it, and what actions are they going to take with that data,” he said.

Theo Douglas is assistant managing editor for Industry Insider — California, and before that was a staff writer for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes covering municipal, county and state governments, business and breaking news. He has a Bachelor's degree in Newspaper Journalism and a Master's in History, both from California State University, Long Beach.