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Two High-Tech Projects to Improve Roadway Safety in Tennessee

Chattanooga will see more technology focused on its roadways. Two separate projects in the region will use smart technology and data analytics to hone in on the causes and fixes for traffic and dangerous conditions.

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A project to study traffic and crash data in Chattanooga will benefit from a new data analytics tool, which could also, in time, lend itself to collecting troves of additional data from dozens of smart intersections.

The Center for Urban Informatics and Progress (CUIP) at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) is partnering with Hexagon to use the company’s HxGN Connect platform to better visualize traffic incidents across the county.

“They [CUIP] were doing the research side, but I think what was missing was, ‘well, how do you visualize, or how might you share that with say, the police, the county sheriff, EMS, those type of organizations within a smart city context?' and that’s really where Connect came in,” explained Mike Baker, strategic product manager for Hexagon's Safety, Infrastructure and Geospatial Division.

Some of the data coming into the system includes the county’s 911 reporting, weather, visibility and road design data, as well as the condition of the roadway.

“The beauty of HxGN Connect is not only that it can bring in the crash data and offer a predictive model, it can bring in lots of other data sources,” said Mina Sartipi, director of the CUIP.

The platform facilitates the import of various data, and allows researchers to view the data in various fashions.

“There’s a lot of data that we can bring all into one place, and being able to look into it,” said Sartipi.

The Hexagon project isn’t the only development to help understand what’s happening on roadways. Chattanooga is also expanding its deployment of smart technology at intersections. The Chattanooga Department of Innovation Delivery and Performance announced it will expand its partnership with Seoul Robotics to add 86 new smart intersections, described as the “largest urban Internet of Things deployment of its kind in the United States,” according to a company press release.

This project, funded in part by a $4.5 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant, will build on the existing MLK Smart Corridor, a city testbed launched in 2019 to experiment with smart intersection technology. The technology will be installed throughout this year and next, bringing the total number of connected intersections to more than 100, connecting the city’s entire downtown.

“We’re generating a real-world, data-informed testing environment for emissions management, pedestrian safety, electric vehicles and more,” said William Muller, vice president of business development at Seoul Robotics, in a statement. “With this scalable network of smart intersections, we’re able to capture the most granular level of 3D data that can be used to transform cities today, and in the future.”

Project officials would like the two projects — both shining fresh light on what’s happening in roadways — to ultimately be merged for added understandings.

“Potentially, the data from the smart intersections can be also integrated,” said Sartipi.

Some of the research understandings already coming forward from the countywide Hexagon project includes a clearer look into when accidents are occurring, with most happening about 5 p.m. on weekdays; however, with the exception of Fridays, when accident times tended to happen sooner, in the 4 p.m. time frame.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the data showed the number of crashes decrease. However, the severity of those crashes increased, suggesting speed played a role.

Hexagon recently added an AI functionality to the Connect platform, which will help to identify data points of interest in real time, Baker explained.

“One of the things that will be beneficial in the future is to be able to look at incidents that are coming in, use our analytics and our AI learning for the system to learn and to identify whether they’re points on the road or intersections, that will help to show problem areas, where we can be a little bit more proactive,” Baker said.
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.


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