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Columbus, Ohio, Launches Connected Vehicle Project

Nearly 2,000 vehicles and more than 100 intersections will be linked to demonstrate how real-time technology can manage traffic and improve safety.

Connected vehicle technology is coming to Columbus, Ohio, in the hopes of making a large swath of the city safer for motorists as well as pedestrians and cyclists.
The city is moving forward with a demonstration project to connect up to 1,800 private and public vehicles, as well as upgrade some 113 signalized intersections with technology to better manage traffic as well as improve safety.
The project, set to go live in July 2020 and known as the Connected Vehicle Environment, is part of the Columbus Traffic Signal System. It falls under a host of smart city and smart transportation projects operated under the Smart Columbus umbrella, established two years ago when the city was named the recipient of a $40 million Department of Transportation Smart City Challenge grant.
The project will involve the deployment of roadside equipment as well as in-vehicle technology to collect data to be used by 12 applications, such as traffic signal priority for transit vehicles, speed reduction alerts in school zones and red-light violation warnings. The study area will occur along seven major streets that include 16 of the top 100 crash intersections in Columbus.
“As you would expect in an urban environment, it was rear-end, angle and five-point crashes that exhibited the greatest number of injuries and fatalities,” said Mandy Bishop, deputy director of public service in Columbus and the project’s program manager, in a July 25, 2018 webinar.
“In these corridors, CV [connected vehicle] technology could be used in applications targeted toward reducing these crashes,” said Bishop.
The city will begin procurement for the technologies in the spring of 2019, with application development starting soon after in the summer.
“At the same time the city will begin recruiting private drivers. That recruitment process is expected to last several months, until about April of 2020,” said Bishop.
The in-vehicle devices will be installed in both public and private vehicles. The devices will not be used to track illegal driving activity, Bishop stressed. However, during community meetings a number of residents did express privacy concerns, according to Tom Timcho, the Connected Vehicle project technical lead for the city.
“There was general excitement for the project when the residents learned that the devices would be available to them at no cost,” said Timcho.
The project unfolding in Columbus is similar to the “Connected Vehicle Pilot” underway in Tampa Bay, Fla., which involves some 1,600 private vehicle drivers who use the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway. That project is set to run through the end of 2019.
The Columbus Connected Vehicle Environment is part of a larger collection of projects — many of them public-private partnerships — in the city to increase transit ridership and speed the adoption of electric and autonomous vehicles.
“We feel transportation should be connected, autonomous, shared and electric,” said Bishop.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.