Data has always been the backbone of the transportation industry; used for decades to evaluate systems, predict traffic, and guide infrastructure investments. However, the emergence of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) has ignited a data boom. Agencies now gather information from cameras, sensors, connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs), and even third-party sources, allowing them to design safer roads and communicate safety in real time. This influx of data has created new challenges. Transportation systems now need robust solutions for ingesting and storing massive data volumes, utilizing data insights effectively, and sharing data securely and collaboratively.
While they recognize the value of diverse data streams for improving infrastructure, efficiency, and safety, local and state transportation departments (DOTs) are struggling to navigate the surge in data. With information pouring in from cameras, sensors, connected vehicles, and external sources, DOTs must prioritize effectively. Deciding what data to store, process, and analyze for specific use cases requires a strategic approach. Several agencies have initiated pilot projects to implement emerging technologies to establish an agency-wide data exchange. Due to variations in agency organizations, sizes, levels of database maturity, and anticipated outcomes, most of them adopt different approaches. However, the primary challenges lie in ensuring the interoperability and scalability of the solution. A nationwide framework outlining data management best practices and promoting interoperable solutions is crucial for long-term success.
Advanced Transportation Technology’s Role in a Unified Digital Infrastructure
The integration of data from emerging technologies, combined with the growing necessity for vehicles to communicate with infrastructure, prompted the inception of a digital infrastructure initiative backed by the entire transportation community. Several stakeholders, including the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITSA), have proposed different definitions for digital infrastructure. However, a core concept remains: new technologies advance transportation through safer, cleaner, and future-forward solutions.
In the context of emerging connected vehicles (CV) and other transportation technologies, there is a pressing need to represent the physical roadway system through a digital layer. This digital layer would facilitate real-time communication, data exchange, and storage, ultimately improving safety, mobility, and equity. Simultaneously, at the federal level, there is an initiative underway to establish a roadway digital infrastructure layer for data exchange. This layer includes assets involved in generating, moving, processing, and displaying data crucial for users.
Transforming Transportation Communication: The Wyoming Connected Vehicle Pilot and the Role of Situation Data Exchange (SDX)
While the need for a national digital infrastructure layer is clear, realizing this vision requires practical solutions. Here, we explore the experience of the Wyoming Connected Vehicle Pilot (CVP) and its utilization of the Situation Data Exchange (SDX) to create the foundation for digital infrastructure on a national scale.
The Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) recognized the need to share critical information with drivers. To address this, they partnered with Sirius XM in the CVP, enabling them to send Traveler Information Messages (TIMs) to vehicles with satellite receivers. The TIMs were sent through a central data exchange called the Situation Data Warehouse, which was created by the USDOT. Trihydro assumed ownership of this data exchange in 2019, renaming it Situation Data Exchange (SDX) while enhancing its functions to facilitate data exchange with third-party providers and expand coverage for connected vehicles.
The core objective of SDX is to extend CV coverage by disseminating CV messages through existing third-party infrastructure. Presently, SDX supports TIMs and Work Zone Data Exchange (WZDx) messages. The architecture of SDX is designed for scalability and adaptability to incorporate other types of connected vehicle messages or data feeds as necessary.
TIMs convey weather-related messages and information on crashes, delays, closures, or other roadway conditions to drivers. SDX complements TIMs broadcasting through CV technology and dynamic message signs, facilitating satellite or internet communication, and fostering a foundation for technology interoperability. The utilization of SDX expands the reach of TIMs, allowing more drivers to make real-time decisions that enhance traffic safety and efficiency. Importantly, SDX brings emerging technologies to rural and underserved communities, contributing to equity in access.
Connected and Data-Driven Future in Transportation
As the transportation industry navigates the challenges posed by the data-driven revolution, the establishment of a national digital infrastructure, guided by best practices and promoting interoperability, emerges as a crucial step for long-term success. The collaborative efforts of various stakeholders, demonstrated by initiatives like the CVP, showcase the potential for a connected and data-driven future in safer and more efficient transportation.
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