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Water Today Title September 27, 2022

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Update 2017/11/6
ITS World Congress, Montreal


This story is brought to you in part by Biomass Recycle

By Cori Marshall

The Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) 2017 World Congress gave visitors a window on the innovation that is driving our cities into the future. The Exhibitor Hall and exterior demonstrations allowed people to see what companies are working on right now and what technology is on or about to hit the market.

We had the opportunity to discuss and experience many technological innovations, like the Keolis Navya Autonomous Electric Shuttle, Aisin Group's intelligent personal mobility vehicle and Automated Parking Valet System, learned about Colas' Wattway solar pavement and the Mobility Marketplace developed in New Zealand.

The Congress was not all about displaying the new tech, there was also the element of networking and information sharing.

Over the course of the five days, more than 250 Special Interest Sessions were held dealing with a wide range of topics. These sessions were on top of the Executive Sessions and meetings that also made up the event.

Many of the panel sessions were held in the conference rooms in Montréal's Palais des Congrès, though the Smart Cities Education Stage was located in the Exhibitor Hall and brought forward many topics of interest.

One such session was held under the theme of 'Can Cities Still Be Smart in Inclement Weather?' The discussion brought together experts in the field from the State of Minnesota.

Weather presents significant problems for smart transport technologies. Phil Magney, the Founder and Principal Advisor for Vision Systems Intelligence (VSI), said "automated vehicles in poor weather are going to present big challenges, [vision] systems don't work as well, properties change with temperature change."

There are four main vision sensor technologies currently being used for automated transport radar, lidar, ultrasonic and old fashion vision. In bad weather conditions "we know that radar and ultrasonic [sensors] work really well," Magney underlined, "vision and lidar decline when the weather gets poor."

In some cases, these vision sensors are not as sophisticated as they could be and can give somewhat erroneous readings. Magney used the example of a minivan with a decal with images of bicycles and pedestrians. The van was parked beside a car in the image and he said the sensors "identified the car, and also picked up three bicycles and a person walking." The issue here is that the sensors identified objects from a two-dimensional image that was applied to another vehicle, indicating that false positives are still a problem.

Sinan Yordem, Global Ecosystem Manager for 3M Connected Roads, Transportation Safety Division, spoke about the redundancies necessary to ensure road safety in poor weather.

The right materials have to be put on the road, Yordem said that "it is critical to enable autonomous driving as well as driving with assisted features." changes need to be made to existing infrastructure and standardization is key for driving "not only in poor weather conditions but all-weather conditions as well."

Traffic signs can be vandalized, and benign objects can change how vision sensors on vehicles interpret the sign itself. Yordem used the example of a stop sign that was modified with stickers and how that changed the reading that the sensors gave. It is clear in the image what the object was but due to the modifications sensors read it as a speed limit sign.

This type of situation is alarming and "you could imagine how dangerous it would be to have false classifications such as this," Yordem said.

Nichole Morris is the Director of HumanFirst Laboratory, her field of expertise is Human Factors which she described as "the marriage between engineering and psychology."

What the lab does is assess how individuals interact with new technologies. This field takes what is known and understood about human beings and applies that "to designing systems with the user in mind," Morris said.

There is a fair bit of simulator work as well as field work in the environment where new systems will be installed. Morris stresses that testing of systems in real situations with real people should be done "early and often because it will really enhance how that system functions and most importantly will [people] use it." If a system is not designed properly chances are it will be shut off and that is money spent for nothing.

Another interesting topic that was discussed on the Education Stage was how Christchurch, New Zealand used smart technology to aid in the recovery from two earthquakes.

Stephen Hewitt, Senior Technical Director of Transportation, Beca, New Zealand said that "buildings were heavily affected which resulted in 1,200 having to be demolished, [and] 50% of the urban road network was affected." Christchurch was in a chaotic state people were not even able to get online, and cell phones were out.

Hewitt added that as people tried to leave "they found that some of the bridges had failed, and that resulted in people having to walk." streets were affected by flooding, liquefaction and potholes.

As the cleanup started "large amounts of material was just thrown to the side so that [they] could get to the buildings," he said. In some places "cars were stuck in carparks and were unable to be removed," he said.

Smart technology came into play in the recovery from the disaster. Ryan Cooney, from the Christchurch Transport Operations Centre (CTOC), said "there was a lot of disruption, but it wasn't just the infrastructure, it was people's lives as well."

Cooney said "what that meant for the [CTOC] was that there were very unstable journey times, we basically ended up in a situation where a journey one day could take fifteen minutes and the next day would take two hours."

A strategic team was put in place to find solutions to the unpredictable travel times, which had an impact on business and just keeping contact with loved ones.

Hewitt said that the team "had about sixty initiative that were implemented." In that environment under a state of emergency the team was "able to accomplish a lot of things that [they] didn't think [they] could."

Hewitt said that "the road closures were happening very rapidly, and the public's ability to know how and where to travel was very challenged." In response to this situation the team put together a website, the city had "never tried to [deliver] information on Christchurch in a real-time sense before, this was a massive learning curve for us," he added.

The team ran into even more challenges in the rebuilding phase when many different groups and companies wanted to work on many different projects. Work needed to be done on power cables, water services, communication cables. Hewitt said that "many of them wanted to do the work at the same time and place."

The question for the team was "how do we coordinate all of this, and keep transport moving?"

Previously in New Zealand the CTOC would "receive [project documents] five days prior to the start of the work," Hewitt explained, "so we came up with the idea [to] see everybody's program in one location." This was not something that was common "anywhere in the world."

The system developed in "one month [for] $70 thousand, that's all it took," Hewitt said. The system captures all of the data from the different companies and contractors, they also developed a system to receive applications to conduct work in Christchurch. Unexpectedly the system was very popular.

The city was able to "coordinate 45 crews in a three-kilometre area," Hewitt said.

The system that was developed is still in use today, in fact, Hewitt used the phrase "from adversity comes opportunity."

Smart systems are all around us, from aiding our driving experience to completely handling certain functions. These same systems helped a major city bounce back from a disaster. Smart technology is taking a larger place in our societies, propelling them into the future.

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