Smart city story: Laying the groundwork for a safer and better connected road network for Calgarians

Imagine getting location-specific traffic information while driving, or road safety messaging as a pedestrian, in real-time. Connected Vehicle technology is a smart city initiative that can be used to help share information to keep roads safe. It also helps municipalities run transportation networks more smoothly by managing and prioritizing traffic signal operations.

Calgary has established a test area called the 16th Avenue V2I Test Bed along this important route in order to safely test and improve the use of Connected Vehicle technology, specifically a type called vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) technology.

Vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) technology

At its core, V2I technology is about communicating information between the infrastructure (like a traffic light) and a vehicle, a person in a vehicle or a pedestrian, as well as between vehicles. This can include everything from information that a light is turning red to warnings that a vehicle (equipped with the technology) is quickly approaching the intersection at a high rate of speed and may not stop, or that a pedestrian is in the crossing. The technology can be integrated with other equipment, such as roadside sensors, to give accurate road condition information that can add another level of safety and efficiency.

Pilot project

As part of the pilot, The City installed connected vehicle equipment at 11 intersections along 16 Avenue North during the spring / summer of 2020. Several City emergency vehicles had on-board equipment tested and installed. With the equipment in place on both infrastructure and vehicles, The City can carefully test different applications of this technology.

This will eventually help all road users to move in a safer, more efficient manner. Investment in new technologies and innovation like this V2I technology is critical to creating a sustainable and resilient future for Calgarians. The City hopes to open the doors to test additional uses independently or in collaboration with educational institutions or other organizations.

Testing V2I

One application allows the vehicles to communicate directly with these traffic signals to extend green lights and gain pre-emption over other vehicles on the road. Another can show the next signal’s status, including a countdown to green, or to warn of a red light ahead.

V2I technology goes beyond The City’s current system for pre-emption of emergency vehicles and could revolutionize the way vehicles interact with each other and other infrastructure on the road. So far the results have been very promising because the technology operates as intended for pre-emption.

New ways to use V2I technology

Testing is also underway for an additional application called “eWalk”, aimed to help visually impaired pedestrians and those with limited mobility, and is integrated with cell phones. So far, Calgary is one of few cities testing an application targeted at providing information to pedestrians with disabilities. This eWalk application is continuing to evolve, and work with the CNIB has helped to generate useful feedback to the software developer.