A modern vehicle processes an estimated 25 gigabytes of data each hour. Much of that is for internal operations, such as navigation and continuous optimization of the drivetrain. But an increasing amount of data involves driving conditions, such as hard braking. Today, fleet owners and insurance companies use that data internally to detect unsafe driving habits or avoid chronically congested routes, among other things. But in the future, some of this data may be shared with municipalities and state departments of transportation — if they’re prepared to receive it.
The U.S. Postal Service, for example, sees smart cities as potential users of the telematics data its vehicles collect concerning road conditions. Knowing where mail trucks often are stuck in traffic or have to brake hard could help smart cities pinpoint where to expand roads or add stoplights, so they can spend their transportation budgets more efficiently and effectively.
Analysis of certain types of vehicle data in real time could mean the difference between life and death. For example, sending crash notifications straight to first responders so they’re automatically dispatched could speed up response times, saving the minutes lost while waiting for a 911 call to come in.
Crash notifications could also automatically be shared with vehicles approaching the area so they start slowing down. The Federal Communications Commission’s Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) Service, which enables vehicles to communicate with one another and with traffic infrastructure, could handle these notifications.
These types of connected transportation systems can make use of roadside environmental sensors to eliminate the expense, error and delay that come with relying on humans to report conditions. For example, the Tennessee Department of Transportation now uses fog sensors to automatically update digital road signage and its smartphone app.
Monetizing Connected Transportation Systems
Mobile operators are touting 5G cellular technology as a DSRC adjunct or alternative. That’s noteworthy, partly because in September 2018, the FCC limited the fees municipalities and states can charge operators for attaching 5G cell sites to streetlights and other public infrastructure.
Now state and local governments are scrambling to figure out how to offset that lost revenue. One possibility is by monetizing connected vehicle data, a market that McKinsey & Company estimates will be worth $750 billion by 2030.
McKinsey’s survey found drivers are willing to share their vehicle data with services that help them find parking spaces quickly — and they’re willing to pay for the privilege. Cities that own garages, surface lots and street parking are uniquely positioned to sell those services.
Besides consumers and fleet owners, other potential customers include Apple and Google (which have been developing connected vehicle solutions for years) and automakers. No single company will dominate the connected vehicle market, so organizations will always need data provided by other sources. Municipalities and states are able to serve as impartial brokers for that data — so they should start laying the right foundation now.
Driving Digital Transformation in Government
Connected transportation ultimately is another form of digital transformation. One key to success is for localities to follow the maxim to think big, act small and move fast. Many cities have applied this principle to streetlights, for example, by implementing a mesh network to maximize energy efficiency and public safety. Those energy savings can help fund additional digital transformation projects that ride atop the mesh network, such as traffic and parking sensors. The right partner can identify those synergies and savings, paving the way for new revenue streams from connected transportation.
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