February 20th, 2019

Moving Smart Communities Forward with Moving FIRST
By: Tina Quigley, General Manager
Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada

It’s been said before, but technology truly is the new asphalt. Advanced technologies are revolutionizing transportation. In just the past few years, we have seen significant advancements in connected and autonomous vehicle technology, especially in Southern Nevada, which continues to be a leader in integrating intelligent transportation technologies to create smarter, safer, less congested and more efficient communities.

Ultimately, we want to create a transportation system that is the foundation of a “smart community” with increased efficiencies, improved safety and more mobility options, positioning the region for sustainable economic prosperity. To achieve that goal, collaboration between public and private partners and among jurisdictions and government agencies is critical. As we are learning from cities across the globe, like Singapore, Barcelona and Helsinki, we can’t do it alone.

We need to work together to ensure we are developing policies, building infrastructure and creating vehicles that can accommodate the technology that will redefine transportation and mobility. That’s why I applaud Senator Cortez Masto’s leadership with her “Innovation State Initiative”, including the introduction of the Moving and Fostering Innovation to Revolutionize Smarter Transportation (Moving FIRST) Act. This legislation will enable communities to partner with the federal government and private industry to advance data and intelligent transportation systems. Working together, we are better positioned to develop innovative solutions that leverage technology for the benefit of our residents and visitors.

Senator Cortez Masto’s bill will expand the opportunity for more communities, regardless of size, to compete for resources to fund efficient and innovative transportation projects by expanding the 2015 Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) Cities Challenge administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). This funding can help meet a community’s transportation needs and support the development of groundbreaking partnerships.

I am hopeful that the bill is signed into law, but in Southern Nevada, we don’t like to wait. We are already working on a regional level to test and deploy advanced transportation innovations that can help address the mobility challenges we face now and will face in the future, including safety, congestion and capacity.

Southern Nevada has the nation’s first truly integrated Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) operation system across all jurisdictions in the region – as opposed to locales that have a patchwork of traffic management systems. This centralized traffic management operation at the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) Traffic Management Center makes it easier for technology companies to access data and demonstrate products that require connection to traffic signals and monitors.

This regional coordination prompted Audi to select Southern Nevada to debut the first of its kind “Time to Green” dashboard feature, which enables the car and driver to receive real time alerts on when traffic lights will change. This information not only allows drivers to be more informed, prepared and alert, but also is a first step to developing autonomous vehicles and a data exchange that will help better manage congestion on crowded roadways.

Building on the data exchange, the RTC, along with the City of Las Vegas, provides traffic signal data to the self-driving shuttle sponsored by AAA and Keolis that operates in mixed traffic along a half-mile loop in downtown Las Vegas. The shuttle is the country’s first autonomous bus to be fully integrated with “smart city” infrastructure. This pilot project not only tests autonomous and intelligent infrastructure technology but will help develop standards for sharing data with connected and autonomous vehicles as federal standards don’t currently exist. Perhaps most importantly, the shuttle allows the general public to experience a self-driving vehicle first-hand. It is critical that people have the opportunity to experience in-person these advanced technologies so they are comfortable with the changes that will occur in the near future.

Another groundbreaking technology being deployed in Southern Nevada is through a partnership with Waycare whose technology helps improve safety and efficiency on freeways and major arterials by compiling and analyzing data to report in real-time the location of accidents and predict where dangerous driving conditions or congestion may occur. This technology enables faster validation and response to roadway incidents as well as a more efficient use of resources to proactively deploy traffic patrols and abatement efforts with the goal of preventing incidents. The Nevada Highway Patrol (NHP) and Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) use this information to more efficiently deploy law enforcement and roadside assistance units to patrol problem traffic areas. And the RTC Traffic Management Center uses Waycare’s real-time analytics to better optimize traffic flows.

The RTC and our partners in Southern Nevada will continue to evaluate, test and deploy advanced technologies that can help us address the inherent challenges that come with growth, all in support of sustainable economic prosperity and an improved quality of life. But technology knows no boundaries. Communities need to work together with private partners, industry leaders, and government on all levels – local, state and federal – to make a real commitment to encouraging innovation and planning for the future of transportation.