Autonomous vehicles

This blog is written by one of 15 individuals attending the South By Southwest Conference in Austin with the intention to bring back ideas and to reimagine Richland County.

There has been a common theme at some of the SXSW sessions I’ve attended: "What’s next?”

What’s next in technology? What’s next in transportation? What will cities look like 30 years from now?

Bob Bianchi

A particular session I attended centered around the concept of Smart Cities. It’s difficult to define Smart Cities but it’s basically implementing technology to make services work better and become more efficient.

Two topics were discussed...

1. Autonomous vehicles

Autonomous vehicles are cars that drive themselves. This is coming, and it’s coming fast. Billions of dollars are being invested in this new technology. We need to be ready for the inevitable integration of driverless vehicles into our traffic system.

How we plan and develop infrastructure will begin to change. Infrastructure will be “intelligent”, connected to the vehicles that surround it. Traffic signals will “talk” to the vehicles moving toward the intersection, ensuring the signals green time is used efficiently. Safety will also be improved. Human error accounts for 90% of traffic accidents. Eliminating this error will make our roadways safer.

Cities are beginning to take the first step toward integrating autonomous vehicles into their traffic system by deploying autonomous shuttles in their downtowns. These shuttles operate on a fixed loop system, taking people into the areas where parking is not available.

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2. Intelligent Street Lighting

Street lights today are pretty basic. They turn on at dusk, and off at dawn. The lights remain on, providing the same amount of illumination, regardless of nearby activity (or the absence of activity). Intelligent Street Lighting may be a solution to improve efficiency and reduce electric cost.

Intelligent Street Lighting systems are lights that have the ability to adapt to real time pedestrian and vehicular movements. The lights adjust the illumination level based on activity and ambient conditions. They collect data…anything from weather conditions, traffic counts and even gun shots. Based on the data received, the lights talk to each other and adjust illumination accordingly.

As more and more data is collected, the lighting system is optimized and only provides illumination when needed. Cities can save nearly 40% on electric cost by transferring to intelligent lighting systems.

Autonomous Vehicles and Intelligent Street Lighting are just two of the hundreds of topics being discussed at SXSW. I look forward the coming days as we consider what’s next for Mansfield.

Stay tuned and follow the progress via #SXSW419. And watch for more blogs at richlandsource.com/rising_from_rust/sxsw.

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South by Southwest Conference Blogger

City Engineer for the City of Mansfield. He strives to provide professional engineering services that sustain and enhance the quality of life, health and safety for Mansfield citizens. Bob enjoys finding progressive and innovative solutions.