How Mobility Data Can Improve Smart City Traffic

Examine how mobility data can be used to transform traffic in smart cities. Navigate challenges and discover real-world applications for enhanced urban efficiency.

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Smart traffic solutions offer the potential to transform urban life by addressing congestion, pollution, roadway safety, and other traffic pain points commonly seen in dense population areas.

With real-time smart city traffic data, traffic management can better plan for potential traffic challenges, facilitating a better urban experience for city drivers, commuters, residents, and visitors.

To realize the new traffic management efficiencies and successes, smart cities need to recognize the value of traffic-related mobility data and develop a strategic framework to put this information to good use.

Understanding Smart City Traffic Challenges

One of the largest and most prevalent problems with living in an urban area is traffic, which has detrimental effects on more than just those who drive.

Even for urban citizens who depend primarily or entirely on walking, bicycling or riding public transportation, traffic-related problems can have a significant impact on resident quality of life. Traffic congestion and infrastructure overload can also become a cost and resource drain for cities struggling to address and manage these smart city challenges.

Here are the most widespread traffic challenges smart cities face today:

Congestion Management

Traffic congestion in major global cities continues to get worse. In certain congestion-plagued U.S. locations, heavy traffic during the work commute costs the average driver well over 100 hours of time each year.

Given that metropolitan populations are expected to keep growing over the next decade, there’s a good chance unmanaged traffic will eventually result in even worse congestion in these places.

Optimizing Transportation Infrastructure

Poorly timed traffic signals can contribute to traffic congestion rather than facilitate more efficient traffic flow—especially when they don’t adjust to traffic patterns fluctuations.

Current traffic infrastructure is often ill-equipped to handle event traffic common in urban centers. As a result, more traffic control personnel are needed to tackle traffic issues that are outside the purview of the present, insufficient transportation system. In addition to being a less effective use of their time, there can be safety concerns.

Environmental and Air Quality Impact

Idling vehicles and more time behind the wheel inevitably increase the toxic emissions in a city’s air. Research suggests the average U.S. urban area experiences more than 3.5 million gallons of wasted fuel each year due to traffic congestion.

Those millions of gallons of wasted fuel directly impact local air quality, resulting in higher levels of greenhouse gases and other pollutants.

Safety Concerns

Walk signals and other traffic control technology play a critical role in maximizing public safety for both commuters and pedestrians. Congestion can impact roadway visibility and increase driver reckless impulses, leading to risky behavior. Meanwhile, poor coordination of traffic lights and walk signals can also create situations where vehicles are crowding crosswalks and intersections, disrupting traffic and pedestrian flow.

When severe weather, auto accidents, or other emergencies occur, public safety issues might increase if traffic management is neglected or responds slowly.

How Data Helps Urban Traffic Efficiency

Solutions to these pervasive traffic challenges depend on mobility data, which can help promote new traffic management outcomes and efficiencies. As internet-connected vehicles become commonplace on roadways, the mobility data generated can be collected by smart cities and combined with Internet of Things (IoT) traffic sensor data to generate powerful insights while supporting more responsive and proactive traffic management.
Cities can use automotive mobility data to plan traffic infrastructure upgrades of roadways, traffic signals, and parking.

The potential applications of this data fall into one of three key categories:

Real-Time Traffic Monitoring

Mobility data from connected vehicles, as well as IoT sensors collecting traffic data across the city, can offer real-time updates on evolving traffic conditions in a city. This is particularly useful when dealing with unexpected traffic conditions such as accidents and other disruptions affecting traffic flow.

Real-time monitoring can help traffic management personnel and services to act on and address these challenges. Rerouting traffic, deploying traffic management and emergency response personnel, and other interventions can be initiated faster to alleviate traffic congestion and other disruptions.

Predictive Traffic Analysis

Smart cities can use historical mobility data and trends-based analysis to better predict congestion and other traffic issues before they develop. Traffic forecasts can be generated well in advance of when the actual traffic conditions develop, giving traffic management services ample time to plan out strategic interventions and appropriate resourcing.

Predictive traffic analysis can also improve a city’s ability to communicate expected congestion, delays, and other disruptions to local drivers, so they can make alternative plans.

Smart Traffic Signal Control

Traffic signal lights can be connected to smart technology that adjusts their operation throughout the day. Certain roads experiencing elevated congestion can receive longer green lights to facilitate better traffic flow. Smart signals can be coordinated with alternative route planning to streamline traffic management throughout the city.

How Mobility Data Transforms Smart City Traffic

When smart cities create an infrastructure for processing and using their collected mobility data, digital transformations can reshape the traffic landscape in that community.

Smart cities can leverage these outcomes to reduce congestion and air pollution, prevent traffic-related accidents and deaths, and improve the standard of living for all commuters and residents. Here are some of the specific use cases where mobility data can deliver tangible outcomes for smart city traffic management:

Improved Traffic Flow

Whether traffic congestion is predicted or unexpected, smart cities can use mobility data to quickly ease congestion and improve flow.

Traffic detours, advanced notice to drivers of traffic delays, and smart traffic signal management can all be utilized to coordinate an efficient response that facilitates better traffic flow while prioritizing roadway safety.

Dynamic Route Planning

Traffic management services are often tasked with facilitating better traffic flow while improving roadway safety during peak periods of congestion. Planned detours, smart signal adjustments, and other infrastructure changes are often used to facilitate traffic routes that efficiently clear congestion and navigate vehicles around areas of concern.

IoT traffic sensors and connected car mobility data can enhance this planning process by identifying dynamic route options that improve citywide traffic management. These dynamic routes account for a wide range of data points to identify the best course in any given situation. As circumstances change, new alternatives may be identified as part of a more agile, responsive approach to route planning and management.

Parking Optimization

Restricted parking spaces may be the main contributor to traffic jams in some cities. The proportion of cars on the road looking for parking in the areas surrounding large venues, like stadiums and event centers, can be the cause of nearly 100% of total traffic congestion.

IoT parking sensors can alert drivers to open parking spots, reducing traffic caused by vehicles patrolling city blocks in search of available parking. Connected cars can use mobile apps to locate these parking spots and receive directions to their location.

Better Road Safety

Lower congestion levels and more consistent traffic patterns reduce the risk of accidents involving vehicles and pedestrians. Improved road safety, in turn, can reduce the number of traffic accidents and lower the occurrence rate of one of the most common sources of traffic congestion.

Addressing Concerns: Challenges of Mobility Data Solutions

Mobility data solutions must follow a number of compliance-related requirements and other best practices. If these technical challenges are ignored, smart cities may suffer consequences ranging from data overload and malfunctioning solutions to financial penalties for noncompliance.

Here are the top items to address when developing solutions that utilize mobility data: 

Data Privacy and Security

Private citizen data is subject to a growing number of consumer privacy regulations. Cities should be familiar with all privacy-related laws that impact their use of mobility data.

Cybersecurity challenges must also be addressed. Robust security is essential for smart cities that depend on citizen opt-ins that give permission to use this mobility data. Poor security infrastructure can increase data breach risks that leave your city liable. And these disruptions could jeopardize your smart traffic operations.

Interoperability and Standardization

Since mobility data may be generated, processed, and used by different devices and solutions, smart cities must implement data standardization processes to facilitate easy and consistent storage, management, and retrieval of this data.

Smart traffic solutions and seamless mobility data interoperability are made possible by effective data standardization.

Lack of Regulatory Frameworks

While data privacy regulations and other compliance considerations are important to your smart traffic solutions, an overall lack of regulation regarding smart city mobility data means cities must develop and adhere to best practices on their own.

A trusted technology partner will be essential when building smart city storage and data-driven traffic solutions that meet both city and citizen needs.

Real-World Applications and Success Stories

Traffic-related mobility data solutions aren’t futuristic technology. Cities around the world are already using this data to inform new strategies to build traffic infrastructure and improve urban traffic management.

Here are a few examples of mobility data in action:

Seagate Solutions for Smart City Traffic Storage

Capturing, processing, storing, and using mobility data requires a large, powerful, and accessible enterprise data storage system. From on-premises to hybrid cloud solutions, Seagate data storage solutions offer enterprise-grade capacity and performance to support your mobility data goals at scale.

Smart cities interested in building private cloud storage for mobility data can choose from Seagate Exos® E hard drives or Exos CORVAULT™ systems, which offer high-density storage along with innovative features like self-healing storage. For public cloud and hybrid environments, our Lyve™ Cloud solution offers edge-to-cloud mass storage to support fast data processing required for real-time monitoring and analysis.

Seagate also offers the Lyve Mobile data transfer as a service to easily move large amounts of data collected at the edge—i.e., on the road—to your city’s central data centers, including Lyve Cloud. However your city chooses to configure its data storage, Seagate supports your needs.

Start planning your smart city data storage today. Talk to a Seagate expert to get started.