When it comes to transportation, the future is “smart.” Think self-driving cars, autonomous shuttles, and traffic lights and cars connected by the internet and designed to improve traffic flow and safety.
The new technology promises to change our lives, not unlike when the horse and buggy gave way to the automobile. On Sept. 5, public officials, planners, and industry leaders from across metro Atlanta will gather for the second ConnectATL summit, where they’ll explore the future of transportation in the region.
This is critical, as in many ways the future is already here. High-tech projects are cropping up across metro Atlanta, the beginning of a transportation tech wave that promises to transform our region in ways we can only imagine.
Here are some highlights:
1. Driverless Shuttles in Chamblee
As one of four Georgia cities to be awarded Smart Cities Challenge grants from Georgia Tech, Chamblee is studying bringing shared, self-driving vehicles to its streets.
The big idea: Piloting a cutting-edge transportation program whose research findings could benefit the entire region
2. Smart Corridors Galore!
“Smart Corridors” are high-tech streets whose very infrastructure — including major intersections — communicate with connected vehicles about things like road closures, accidents, and traffic volume. This helps drivers, including emergency responders, travel more easily and safely.
Smart corridors are being tested or planned along significant stretches of road all over metro Atlanta, including Peachtree Industrial Boulevard in Gwinnett County, and North Avenue and Hollowell Parkway in the city of Atlanta.
The big idea: To “wire up” major arterials that cross jurisdictions to serve as a real-world test for connected vehicle technology.
3. Self-Driving Trucks…
The freight industry may be among the first to go autonomous. As our fair state is a major hub for trucks, (Think of all those 18-wheelers carrying goods from the Savannah port), GDOT has a long-term plan that will eventually involve new, specially-designated lanes for autonomous trucks on I-75 from Macon to McDonough. In fact, one of our first glimpses of self-driving cars may be platoons of autonomous trucks traveling in tightly packed lines down this corridor.
The big idea: Self-driving trucks could reduce congestion while addressing the industry’s chronic driver shortage.
4. …And Cars
In Buckhead, Daimler – parent company of Mercedes-Benz – is opening an innovation lab that will include connective tech testing. (Check out these stories for more on that.) And tech incubator Prototype Prime is partnering with the city of Peachtree Corners to create a city-owned and operated 1.4 mile autonomous vehicle testing track.
The big idea: Ensuring safe, enjoyable experiences before these cars hit the roads in the real world.
5. Master Plans in Gwinnett and Cobb
Gwinnett County, another Georgia Smart Communities awardee, is creating a Connected Vehicle Master Plan to prep all its major corridors for connected vehicles. Meanwhile in Cobb County, the city of Marietta has deployed a system that prioritizes traffic signals for emergency and first-response vehicles.
The big idea: Eventually making every road safer and more connected.
6. Taking off at the Aerotropolis
The coalition known as Aerotropolis Atlanta — dedicated to economic development in the neighborhoods around Atlanta’s airport — is looking into smart tech options along the Virginia Avenue corridor, as well as priority signaling for emergency, transit, and commercial vehicles. They’re also hosting a summit in September inviting hundreds of regional leaders and technology vendors from around the world to share ideas.
The big idea: Smart tech is another key step in catalyzing airport-area revitalization.
7. Signaling for Safety
54 intersections in metro Atlanta recently became the proud new bearers of special sensors that communicate things like the current status of upcoming stoplights, the number of minutes or seconds until the light changes, and whether a waiting pedestrian has pushed the “Walk” button. GDOT is planning to install these gadgets at another 1,700 signals across the region.
The big idea: This tech is meant to make life safer for pedestrians and drivers alike.
What’s Next ATL, produced by the Atlanta Regional Commission, is a community resource that explores how metro Atlanta is growing and changing, and how the region is addressing its most pressing challenges.