The importance of networked vehicle data for smart cities

Connected vehicle data is growing rapidly and the majority of new cars are expected to be connected by the next decade. This provides smart city planners and other city decision makers with a wealth of data to use for decision making and urban planning, even in real time.

Vehicles are a concern for anyone who wants to become more environmentally conscious. Traffic problems, pollutant emissions and dangers for pedestrians and cyclists make vehicles a challenge that can be integrated into the ideals of smart cities. Thanks to networked vehicle data, however, that could change.

Connected vehicles enable communication between vehicles, infrastructure and personal communication devices. These vehicles generate powerful data from this communication, originating from the vehicle’s Electronic Control Units (ECUs), Controller Access Networks (CANs), and even infotainment systems. Some examples of this data are location, destination, speed, engine status and more.

Connected vehicle data is growing rapidly and the majority of new cars are expected to be connected by the next decade. This provides smart city planners and other urban decision-makers with a wealth of real-world event data to use for decision-making and urban planning, even in real-time.

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See also: How connected products enable predictive maintenance

A neglected market that could soon take off

Connected Vehicle Data (CVD) is not as popular for smart city planning, but all of that is starting to change. According to a recent study by Otonomo, 62% of respondents believed that CVD is already helping to solve urban issues, including road use and management, zoning and urban planning, and environmental stewardship.

Once companies start generating value from this data, we could see an increase in demand and usage. Population growth and disruptions from events like COVID-19 have motivated cities to rebuild differently and use data to ensure cities offer the best services and living standards for residents now and in the future.

The data helps solve real-world challenges. First, data can be used in planning and organizing projects. Think of reducing traffic congestion, creating better access to different parts of the city, or even organizing parking. This includes better planning of one-off events that can significantly disrupt the overall traffic of the city in question.

One event that could drive CVD adoption is the introduction of electric vehicles. This data could help cities better plan interchange stations and reduce “range fears” to encourage even more people to switch to electric vehicles. However, cities are currently reporting that it is difficult to obtain reliable EV data, so this could be a use case in the future.

Extending connected vehicle data to consumer-oriented apps

An exciting potential use case is the use of CVD to develop mobile transportation apps for citizen planning. This could have a few benefits, including:

  • Improving the transparency of planning and public service offerings. Smart cities need a way for citizens to become more involved in public services, so an app could provide that convenience and ensure more citizens benefit.
  • Facilitate tourism by providing information about the city’s services, traffic challenges, and even parking options for events. This would avoid some of the bottlenecks experienced with an influx of unfamiliar tourists.
  • Ensuring citizens have broader access to all transportation options and can coordinate their activities based on a variety of factors such as events, busy times or construction sites.

Current challenges for networked vehicle data

Currently, more and more people are using traffic cameras or in-road sensors to get closer to this type of data. A growing number of cities are also using public mobile data collected from personal devices.

If connected vehicle data is so valuable, why aren’t more cities using it? There are several key barriers to full adoption and reliance on CVD.

Reliable coverage

More vehicles are being made, but cities need to spread CVD even further to be able to rely on the data. By the next decade, this may no longer be a problem. In addition, better coverage provided by 5G connections will allow cities to collect and extract data reliably and better.

Different regulations

CVD regulations are in their infancy, and cities may be reluctant to risk noncompliance. A federal mandate would help solve the problem. Still, states may need to follow California’s lead when it comes to protecting privacy—without using federal guidelines to take responsibility.

Cybersecurity Challenges

Collecting data also opens up cities to potential cybersecurity threats. However, smart cities will understand that protecting data is vital to continue data-driven initiatives like these. More cities are responding to cybersecurity challenges as a priority, but a proactive attitude protects all.

Citizen confidence

Trust in this new technology has been debated for years (even RTInsights talked about its importance back in 2017). We’re reaching a turning point. Citizens disagree about data collection and government involvement. They want better access to services and a better overall experience in their cities. If governments can take a transparent approach to collecting and using data like CVD, it would do a lot to build trust among citizens (and encourage more participation—something these initiatives desperately need).

MindSphere, the industrial IoT-as-a-Service solution from Siemens, now enables users to take advantage of a new AI for everyone [Learn More]

Connected vehicle data could reinvigorate smart city efforts

The ability to integrate connected vehicle data could allow more cities to plan with greater accuracy. In addition, citizens might feel that they have more information about their own city to plan and use services.

CVD needs to become a single source of data designed to integrate with existing infrastructure data. It must also provide comprehensive, consistent coverage. This provides a system of checks and balances and ensures that any decisions derived from this data are of the highest quality. As we see more connected vehicles and the infrastructure itself, this could prove to be a crucial element in leading cities into the digital age.

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