Connected Vehicle Update: Austin, Texas Enters USDOT SPaT Challenge

November 16, 2018
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Credit: City of Austin Department of Transportation

The City of Austin is making inroads where traffic technology goes, having become the first city in Texas to enter the U.S. Department of Transportation’s SPaT (Signal Phasing and Timing) Challenge through the National Operations Center of Excellence (NOCoE).

The City, according to a news release issued October 25, has completed one deployment of dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) technology at five City of Austin intersections, with two more projects planned for completion in 2019. The technology would allow connected cars to communicate in real time with the traffic signal controller. The result: increased pedestrian and vehicle safety as part of the operations of the signalized intersection.

The SPaT Challenge is an initiative of the V2I (Vehicle to Infrastructure) Deployment Coalition, led by the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), and ITS (Intelligent Transportation Systems) America.

SPaT is described as a challenge to state and local public sector transportation infrastructure owners and operators, according to information provided on the National Operations Center of Excellence website. The challenge has infrastructure owners and operators cooperate together to achieve deployment of DSRC infrastructure, with SPaT broadcasts in at least one corridor or network (approximately 20 signalized intersections) in each of the 50 states, by January 2020. SPaT broadcasts are expected to be accompanied by MAP and (Radio Technical Commission for Maritime Services) broadcasts.”

The City of Austin was chosen by the U.S. Department of Transportation as the deployment site for the V2I portion of the federal Connected Vehicle Reference Implementation Architecture, commonly known as the V2I Hub. Successful implementation of this guiding architecture was the chief enabler to getting Austin and Texas on the SPaT map, according to details provided in the news release.
The small test devices can broadcast industry standard Basic Safety Messages in the immediate vicinity of the intersection to surrounding vehicles equipped with on-board units. The Basic Safety Messages indicate vehicle position, motion, brake system status and size, and provide vehicles with SPaT information as well as MAP data, which is used to illustrate intersection geometry using high-resolution formatting. This type of information will help future connected traffic signals and equipped vehicles communicate about pedestrian or bicyclist presence in the intersection, improve vehicle performance, and provide engineers with traffic data that can be used to improve safety and operations.

About the National Operations Center of Excellence

The National Operations Center of Excellence (NOCoE) is designed to offer a suite of resources to serve the transportation systems management and operations (TSMO) community. The new Center will offer an array of technical services such as peer exchange workshops and webinars, ongoing assessments of best practices in the field, and on-call assistance. 

The Center is a partnership of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), and the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITSA) with support from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

The NOCoE has two primary components. The first is the Operations Technical Services Program, funded through contributions from state transportation agencies and FHWA. The second is a web portal, which contains case studies, resources, links to an array of information, discussion forums, and a calendar of TSMO-related events.

The National Operations Center of Excellence (NOCoE) is intended to serve the emerging transportation systems management and operations (TSMO) community, which has become widely recognized for their important over the last several years. Unlike some more established transportation disciplines, TSMO has not had an institutional support structure or a centralized home for collecting and disseminating best practice information and identifying research needs and capabilities throughout the United States. The NOCoE is intended to address the need for a more centralized and comprehensive set of resources to serve the TSM&O community. The Center supports efforts to reduce congestion, improve reliability, and advance overall TSMO efforts across the United States. NOCoE is advised by a Board of Directors composed of representatives from state, regional, and local transportation agencies, private industry, and the federal government.

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