Artificial intelligence and cloud computing analytical tools are improving the operational efficiency of Tennessee's public transportation system.

Collaborative partnerships between Chattanooga Area Regional Transit Authority (CARTA), the Nashville Metropolitan Transportation Authority, research universities, Google and other public transportation agencies are expected to accelerate transit system improvements and bring cost savings and other benefits.

Using technology to optimize transportation operations is not new. Companies like Optibus and Via have a number of solutions powered by AI and other innovations. But these commercial solutions aren't necessarily carefully tailored to the fundamental needs of small agencies, said Philip Pugliese, CARTA's general manager of planning and grants. . government technology.

“We look forward to building a paradigm that works for small and medium-sized cities and creating solutions that will not only make transportation more competitive, but also create the changes in modes of behavior needed to support future operations. ” he said.

One project, still largely in the research and testing phase, shows the potential for how transit agencies can grow their in-house AI technology based on the realities of their locations. This includes his more than 50 million data points related to conventional and electric buses, as well as weather and traffic information aimed at optimizing paratransit operations at CARTA. The goal is to extend this technology across on-demand microtransit and, ultimately, fixed-route operations. Although much of the research and real-world applications in this transportation system are still in the pilot phase, they have already shown the potential for annual fuel savings of $150,000.

“We showed that we can actually improve efficiency by 40%,” said Abhishek Dubey, director of Scope Lab and associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Vanderbilt University's Institute for Software and Integrated Systems, who worked on the project. says Mr. This research was partially funded by the National Science Foundation.

The ultimate goal is to apply the technology to fixed-route, paratransit and microtransit, “optimizing the integration of all these components and resources, making public transportation more competitive and cost-effective,” Pugliese said. he said.

“Some of the research elements have not yet been put into practical use,” he says. “But we have demonstrated its effectiveness in several areas.” This includes introducing the right type of vehicle (diesel, diesel hybrid, battery electric bus) for the right type of service. Contains optimizations for

Advances in transportation technology that take into account real-time on-the-ground realities such as traffic, road networks, and other variables used to plan dynamic routes and predict passenger numbers and fuel consumption Institutions have rapidly entered the high-tech space of data. -Driven decision making and cloud computing. This is where Google comes in and allows us to scale beyond small pilots across multiple transit systems.

“I think we're really at the point where we're discovering this potential. Our partnership with Google will allow us to leverage cloud computing to innovate. We wouldn't be able to do this without it. ” said Mr. Dubey.

The technology produced by the project has not been fully implemented. The CARTA project is in pilot mode and ready to move forward with other pilots, including on-demand microtransit operations. Now focused on on-the-ground operations, the same types of data points and analytics that led to operational improvements around paratransit route planning and travel times can be applied to on-demand microtransit.

“If it's successful, we can really scale it up,” Dubey said.

“I think everyone agrees that the transportation industry is in a period of transformation,” Pugliese said. “And especially public transport. And as new technologies such as machine learning, autonomous driving, electrification and connected car technology evolve rapidly, and everything moves online very quickly, we are working with a wide range of academic researchers to We think it's a huge advantage to have a transit agency that can leverage these partnerships, to inform our decision-making.”

skip descant

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation, and other areas. He served as a reporter for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and California for over 12 years. He lives in downtown Yreka, California.

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