Rhythm Engineering Blog

KSHB 41 TV – Rhythm in the News

Rhythm Engineering’s very own Sawyer Breslow was recently featured by Kansas City’s KSHB 41 News! Check out him discussing both the environmental and safety benefits of Rhythm’s In|Sync Adaptive Traffic Control System.

By: Charlie Keegan

A new traffic signal along Missouri Route 291 in Lee’s Summit will use artificial intelligence to make your drive more efficient.

The Missouri Department of Transportation activated the traffic light at 291 and Deerbrook Street on Tuesday. A traffic specialist with MoDOT said the amount of the traffic and recent crashes at the intersection led to the signal installation.

In 2009, MoDOT installed the In|Sync traffic synchronization system on 12 traffic signals along MO 291, specifically on the 2.5 miles between 1-470 and U.S. 50. Since Deerbrook Street is within that stretch, MoDOT needed to install the artificial intelligence system on this new light, as well.

The system uses cameras on traffic signal to analyze real-time data and adjust the timing of lights to best serve the current traffic situation.

“It’s not like a traditional signal where the main line is first, then the turns,” explained Alex Martinez, a MoDOT senior traffic studies specialist. “Here, it’s going to decide it’s easer for me to serve the left turn movement before I let everyone else through.”

By syncing all 13 currently-installed traffic signals, engineers believe drivers will save time and money, mainly by avoiding the stop-and-go of hitting multiple red lights during their commute.

You’re not stopping, you’re saving on gas money, reducing emissions to the environment, if you have a green thumb, and then the safety aspect,” said Sawyer Breslow of Rhythm Engineering, the Lenexa-based company that installed the In|Sync program. “You’re not having to come up and stop at the back of a long line of traffic and risk and accident.”

As part of this project, Rhythm upgraded the technology at the 12 traffic signals where it existed on MON 291. The upgrades, when paired with the new light at Deerbrook, cost the state $2.8 million.

MoDOT explained the traffic lights will also make it easier for pedestrians to cross the street. Work on the new traffic signal was delayed due to electricians from Kansas City traveling to Texas and Florida to help those states recover from hurricanes.

Fore more information please go to the KSHB 41 website.

Rhythm EngineeringKSHB 41 TV – Rhythm in the News
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In|Traffic Coordination Configuration for Clean Trafficways

By: Lance Kaminski & James Bley

Did you know that Rhythm Engineering recently introduced In|Traffic, our new traffic management software? In|Traffic replaces CentralSync for coordination configuration. Thus, In|Traffic offers a variety of new and exciting cutting edge features for your coordination configuration needs.

Some of these new features include:

  • Configuration Management
  • Configuration History
  • Application Types & Services
  • Device & License Management
  • User Accounts, Roles, & Permissions
  • Coordination & Time-Space Diagram
  • Crossing Coordination, Reference Intersections, & Dynamic Period
  • Validation

Let’s take a closer look at these various applications by comparing and contrasting In|Traffic versus our older CentralSync software.

Configuration Management: While CentralSync (CS) allowed for individual intersections to have their own configurations; configuration management became increasingly more difficult, particularly with scheduling.

With In|Traffic, all intersections that you intend to be coordinated are part of the same configuration. Individual intersections are not allowed to have their own configurations and still be part of the coordinated group.

Multiple Management Groups are supported with In|Traffic. The most typical case is that a Management Group contains one corridor. With In|Traffic, all of your corridors/management groups can be found in once place. With CS, you had to close down one corridor to view another.

Configuration History: CS was a configuration tool that worked similarly to a document editor. However, CS did not have the ability to undo/redo or to turn on tracked changes and see revision history.

With In|Traffic, you are able to see changes that have been made to configurations, devices that have been added and/or removed, etc. If you would like to go back to a prior version of the configurations in the Management Group, you can select a prior configuration change.

Application Types and Services: CS was a software application that you could install on your computer and it operated in a stand-alone format. A user would open their configuration file or pull from one of the In|Sync devices in the field, make their changes, and then push those changes back out the field. Other users could not see what changes were being made and there was not a central repository for configuration data, etc.

In|Traffic can be installed on any computer, as well. However, it’s real strength is being installed on a central server for multiple users to access. It contains an internal database for configuration and data storage, and it is accessed via a web interface using the latest modern browsers.

Because In|Traffic is installed on a central server, many users can access it simultaneously, and all can enjoy the benefits of seeing other user’s changes.

Device and License Management: In|Traffic is also used to manage your Rhythm Engineering products, something CS could not do. Using In|Traffic, you can see all of your products, from In|Sync, to In|Time, to In|Form, and all of their associated licenses. License management allows you to see what assets you have and where they are applied.

User Accounts, Roles, & Permissions: CS had no user accounts. Any user could use the software and make changes.

With In|Traffic, you can create a specific login for each of your users. In addition, you can restrict the permissions that each of your users is granted. If you’d like to prevent users from taking configuration changes to your In|Sync deployments but you still want to allow them to see the data analytics and run reports, you can do that.

Coordination & Time-Space Diagram: In CS, defining coordinated phases required the user to scroll through the map, zoom into the intersection, and select the phase icon. This was tedious and cumbersome.

In our In|Traffic software, defining coordination is simply a matter of selecting the phases at each intersection in the order of vehicle travel along the corridor.

The user is also able to set travel times and speed limits between intersections. The travel time is used to draw the tunnel as it progresses down the corridor, but the speed limit is used to draw an effective tunnel which represents how vehicles will travel down the corridor. This effective tunnel is something that was not present in CS.

Also, in In|Traffic, the user is able to interact with the time-space diagram view of the tunnel coordination in more ways than was possible with CS. By simply clicking and dragging on part of tunnel, the user is able to alter how the tunnel coordination is defined.

Validation: CS was a document editor, allowing you to configure everything in any which way you wanted. There were some basic checks, but the user was always required to double-check that their solutions wouldn’t result in bad behavior by the In|Sync system.

With In|Traffic, prior to synchronizing the configurations to the intersections, they are run through a validation routine. This validation routine performs the same process of solving the scheduled against the tunnel configuration and the configured sequences and vehicle/ped phases times as the In|Sync System itself. With this level of validation, the user can be sure that the configurations they’ve seen out to their intersections will run properly and that In|Sync will be capable of correctly running the intersection. This was a feature that CS was lacking.

The various features of the new In|Traffic software offer a plethora of features to optimize traffic management and coordination configuration. As such, Rhythm Engineering is proud and excited to unroll the In|Time software and we hope that you are excited, too!

 

 

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Integrated Corridor Management, Making Operational Decisions for the Benefit of the Whole

By: James Bley

If you ask 10 different people what ICM is, you’ll get 10 different answers. ICM stands for Integrated Corridor Management.

A quick Google search takes us to the USDOT ITS website and tells us that the spirit of ICM is to integrate existing infrastructure along major corridors and manage the corridor as a multimodal system, making operational decisions for the benefit of the corridor as a whole. 

There are several Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) joint projects underway with proposed and deployed ICM Systems. At their core, the ICM systems contain configuration modules, execution verification, decision engines, simulation, data gathering, data fusion, data storage, system outputs, and public notifications. The idea is that data is constantly gathered and then the system simulates enacting pre-approved/pre-configured response plans and evaluates the effect of those plans. The recommendations are then provided to a system operator. In addition, the system is capable of providing information to variable message signs,  and other public information mediums.

In a nutshell, ICM is the ability for the corridor to take inputs for many different sources, from weather stations, to radar sensors, to bluetooth sensors, to social media, and use that information to recommend proposed changes to the operation of the corridor and surrounding parallel roadways or intersections. The proposed changes can then be simulated with the current traffic conditions and the result analyzed. Additionally, the system operator is able to propose a change and have it simulated and the results analyzed. Even if no change is made, the system is still capable of providing awareness of the traffic situation (travel times, accidents, congestion, etc.) to the public using various means.

For each project the goals are different, but most share common desirable objectives such as improving incident management, enabling intermodal travel decisions, increasing corridor throughput, and improving travel-time reliability.

With the latest release of In|Sync, we’ve implemented what we call ICM Triggers. Triggers allow for specific conditions at intersections to result in either implementing an entirely new configuration for any set of intersections in the Management Group, or having a single intersection omit phases based on the specific conditions at that intersection.

Currently, the conditions needed to start the triggered configuration or phase omit are cabinet-level input signals to In|Sync. ICM Triggers can be started either when the cabinet-level input signal is immediately received by In|Sync or after some configured duration, or they can be started after the cabinet-level signal has ended.

The ICM Trigger can be ended after some configured maximum run time, or after the cabinet-level input signal has been turned off for the specified amount of time.

Priority levels can be configured for any defined ICM Trigger, such that if multiple ICM Triggers have been started, only one will be in effect for each intersection. Additionally, to prevent rapid configuration changes at the intersection, ICM Triggers, once started, can be configured to run for a minimum amount of time.

Some examples of how the In|Sync ICM Triggers could be used:

  • Coordinating a Southbound flush of traffic along a North-South corridor between 4 intersections of the 10 intersection corridor after a RR preemption event occurs. In this particular case, each intersection is configured to omit all but the Southbound phases after the end of the RR preemption signal. Each intersection can be configured to run this event for an increasing amount of time to allow for the traffic at the Northern-most intersection to clear the Southern-most intersection.
  • Maintaining coordination while a parallel RR preemption event is occurring along the corridor. Each intersection is configured to omit the disallowed phases during the RR preemption event, while In|Sync maintains coordination along the corridor.
  • Highway off-ramp flush. A set-back vehicle detection loop on the off-ramp is used as the cabinet-level input signal. If this loop is triggered for 30 sec. or more, it will cause the intersection to initiate a prioritization flush configuration for that ramp and coordinate clearance of that traffic through the next intersection.

These are only some of the more basic uses of the ICM Trigger capability in In|Sync, and we’re only scratching the surface, as the possibilities are endless.

Let us know how you might use ICM Triggers or what capabilities you’re looking to get out of your corridors and intersections that you can’t get currently. We’d love to hear how you’ve setup complex and innovative solutions to managing your more unexpected or inconvenient corridor events.

Rhythm EngineeringIntegrated Corridor Management, Making Operational Decisions for the Benefit of the Whole
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Sensing the Rhythm of Adaptive Traffic Control, Rhythm Engineering a govCIO Top 10 Intelligent Transportation Solution Provider

 

By: Justin Smith

As the evening sun dips over the horizon, Lady A Pavilion in Evans Towne Center Park hums with excitement. The ‘Rock Fore! Dough’ event has drawn visitors from far and wide. Seven-time Grammy award winning group, Lady Antebellum begins transmitting melodic tunes across the crowd. Onlookers sway back and forth to the trilling notes and pleasing harmonies. It’s a quintessential night teeming with Americana; however, not all is right as it seems. Elsewhere within Columbia County, citizens pray for patience, as they know in a few short hours, the enthusiastic fans will pour onto the roadways causing vast congestion. Nevertheless, what these citizens don’t know, is that there’s a method to help control the madness. Columbia County’s traffic has some help to run smoothly (concert or not) through In|Sync an adaptive traffic control system, crafted by Kansas-city based company Rhythm Engineering. Through traffic signal configuration, monitored performance, and adjustments needed in real-time to optimize traffic flow – the post-concert roads will be as smooth as a Lady Antebellum melody.

Rhythm Engineering’s flagship product, In|Sync, is a real-time adaptive traffic control system that enables traffic signals to immediately adapt to traffic demand. Communities using In|Sync save up to 27 tankers worth of fuel, 33 years of time waiting in traffic, and millions of pounds of harmful emissions that amounts to a total economic benefit of up to $8 million every year. In|Sync solution has been leveraged by more that 1,865 intersections in 128 cities in 31 states – for creating better, safer traffic for American motorists.

Adaptive Traffic Control for a Connected Future

It was the early 1900s when Ford’s Model T became affordable for the average American that the automobile industry transformed into a truly consumer-based revolution. Government agencies at the time faced a gauntlet of tasks – roads to accommodate these vehicles, rules and standards that would control their production and usage, and most importantly, signage and signalized infrastructure that would streamline and regularize traffic. Today, a century later, the future beholds connected vehicles – autonomous entities on the road – that communicate with other vehicles and traffic infrastructure. In a bid to help traffic agencies and engineers take a leap forward to a position where they can handle such immense changes, Rhythm Engineering provides innovative and affordable traffic solutions. Their adaptive traffic control signal system, In|Sync, enables traffic signals to immediately adapt to traffic demand.

The company was founded in a business incubator (Enterprise Center for Johnson County) in a one-room office where its flagship model, In|Sync was developed. Instead of developing incremental improvements to existing traffic control tools and methods, the In|Sync system is set-up to use computers to detect demand in real-time, and then make immediate adjustments in signalization. “Nearly all traffic control systems today use digital hardware but remain but remain constrained by analog thinking such as common cycle lengths, set sequences, fixed offsets and standardized allotment of green time, or splits,” comments Jesse J. Manning, Vice President of Business Development at Rhythm. “The In|Sync Processor is instead a modern-state machine that can dynamically choose which phases to serve and instantly adjust and coordinate service and green time.” The system applies a fundamentally different model with five patents for determining green allocations for movements and moving traffic through the corridor.

Traditional first-generation signal control cabinets are based on archaic binary principles that do not adapt to real-time changes in traffic demand caused by geometric constraints and rush hour fluctuations. Even in second generation systems that take in data from video, radar, and induction loop-based detection systems, responsive technologies rely on pre-programmed timing plans and require a certain amount of time to transmit to a central server which makes decisions based on previous cycles and sends out delayed instructions for dealing with current demand. With third-generation, real-time adaptive technologies, “we are able to make mid-cycle or even mid-sequence decisions based on changing patterns emerging in the traffic. We’re actually responding to how traffic demand looks in that second,” says Jesse. By adapting to actual traffic demand, In|Sync is superior to predetermined signal-timing plans that estimate traffic demands based on a small historical sampling and generalize those results across years of traffic signalization. In|Sync’s ability to constantly see and flexibly serve actual demand in the best way possible is what enables it to produce successful before-and-after results.

Putting ‘Rhythm’ in the Traffic Lights

The volume of vehicles waiting in the queue, the time that each has waited, and the priority of redirection are some of the data points that form the baseline for priority decisions made by In|Sync. As an overlay system, In|Sync’s hardware components plug into existing traffic cabinet hardware. The system is Ethernet and web-based, compatible with all modern controllers, cabinets, and detection devices and does not require removal or upgrade of any hardware or software. Installation of the In|Sync system consists of installing a processor, equipment panel and method to transmit detection calls (such as cabling or detector cards) in each cabinet. If the clients want to use In|Sync’s video detection, then installation also includes installing cameras for each approach. If existing detection methods are preferred, Rhythm Engineering will integrate the installed inputs with the adaptive system. Once cables are pulled from the camera locations to the traffic cabinet, installation of the cameras and in-cabinet hardware typically requires about four hours per intersection. After the hardware is installed, the initial configuration of the system is performed by the engineers at Rhythm Engineering. The time from an agency or contractor ordering the system to full operation is 90 days.

The results are published to traffic agencies via the software, In|Traffic, a web-based intuitive interface that uses a straightforward yet elegant graphical user interface to make the advanced traffic management software easy-to-use for engineers and technicians. In terms of its reporting capabilities, In|Traffic provides visibility into automated traffic signal performance measures that are becoming a norm for traffic agencies in the U.S., as well as other countries. Rather than just reporting the data, “In|Sync’s adaptive algorithms respond to data collection 24-hours-a-day, making a series of miniature alterations to best serve real-time demand,” adds Jesse. This capability went the extra mile in solving predicaments that the City of Farmington faced – varying traffic flows, geometries and distances between intersections, and the frustrating inability to time signals in a way that served bi-directional progression. Apart from building priority orders at each intersection, In|Sync offered the city the unique capability to provide an enriched motorist experience along its corridors.

Empowering Traffic Control

Rhythm is committed to leading the way with groundbreaking traffic signal control solutions that empower traffic professionals to get citizens to their destination safer and faster. The company stands distinct from other adaptive traffic control providers in the way they work: directly with municipal, county and state transportation agency clients through every step of the adaptive traffic control deployment process. Rhythm brings innovation and passion as they work at different levels of the deployment of their solution, from product conception and design to installation and support. It is no surprise that their technology has gained accolades from leading organizations throughout their illustrious journey.

Although Rhythm already addresses multiple use cases in traffic management today, Jesse envisions a future with a much bigger calling for the company’s solutions, “As we have more connected vehicles in the future, we can take in signals from those vehicles to serve as a check-and-balance on the present detection methods. Over a period of time, it will be cars themselves reporting their presence rather than inductance loops or cameras.” The roadmap ahead forks bi-directionally for the company. While they would continue striving to achieve enhanced motorist experiences using sophisticated technology, they also want to bring in an element of education to assist traffic engineers navigate the future.

 

Rhythm EngineeringSensing the Rhythm of Adaptive Traffic Control, Rhythm Engineering a govCIO Top 10 Intelligent Transportation Solution Provider
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The Roomba Principle

By Jesse J. Manning, Vice President of Business Development

I’ve always been the kind of person who hates to do domestic chores – folding laundry, doing the dishes, and especially vacuuming the floor. Don’t ask me why. Maybe it’s because I believe there should be a better way of automating these time-consuming tasks while I work on better and more-interesting things. It’s not that I don’t know where the problems are. I can clearly see when the carpets are dirty or when the sink is full of dishes. I don’t have an issue gathering the data. I have an issue taking action to fix the problem – no time, no interest, and I’m just not that good at it.

Recently, we bought a Roomba at home. We’re quite a team, the Roomba and I. I’ve set it to vacuum the floors every other day at 1:00 pm, and if (through my powers of observation) I determine that the carpets need a little bit more attention, I take a few seconds to tweak the Roomba’s schedule or run it in a particular area. Together, we’ve managed to solve the problem of a dirty house. I collect data and adjust the Roomba to meet my needs, and the Roomba does the heavy lifting: the part I really don’t like to do.

Whether we know it or not, the Roomba Principle applies in so many areas of our everyday lives. In nearly every facet of life, tools have been developed to help us solve problems and free up our time to be more productive.

Given that basic reality, I’ve been somewhat surprised by a recent trend in the traffic industry that promotes investment in observation only. Over the last two years, tools that have been designed to automate data analysis and adjustment of traffic signal timing have been eclipsed by a demand for more and better data-collection systems. Don’t misunderstand: high-resolution data is an incredibly powerful ally in the traffic-signal optimization battle. With it, you can observe efficiencies and inefficiencies down to the smallest details and moments in time. Arrivals on red, arrivals on green, the delay of individual movements – all important data when it comes to better understanding how you can improve your signal timing. But data alone is a half-measure that does not provide the solution.

It’d be like observing my carpets with a microscope. If I collected data that showed 18 dirt particles per square inch within a two-and-a-half foot radius around the front door as compared to eight per square inch in front of the couch, I may know where I need to focus my cleaning efforts. But without my Roomba to follow up, I’m armed with a lot of really interesting yet useless data. My house guests would be less than impressed with reams of data about how dirty my floors are if I didn’t actually clean them.

Since becoming a part of the traffic industry, I’ve heard from hundreds of agencies about the lack of time, lack of staff and lack of resources when it comes to actually fixing signal timing challenges. Those challenges continue, and vendors in the traffic industry owe it to our agency partners to provide consulting, products, and services that matter and actually address their challenges. All the data in the world doesn’t make a corridor flow more efficiently. It won’t ease a frustrated motorist’s mind to know that you’ve got detail to the Nth degree on how poorly your signals are timed. An overabundance of information won’t reduce emissions or improve safety. Data in and of itself is a half-measure, and without the time / staff / resources to take action on the data, traffic industry vendors are doing a disservice to our agency partners by promoting the sizzle and forgetting the steak.

Data is important. We shouldn’t forget it. But we have an obligation to also provide you with the best tools in the industry to fix what the data shows is broken. Keep the solution in mind when deploying your next round of technology upgrades, because knowing your floors are dirty alone won’t solve the problem of cleaning them.

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Large Scale In|Sync Deployments: A View From the Field

By Sawyer Breslow, Sales Engineer

One of my most memorable In|Sync deployments was also the first large scale project I implemented. In October 2014, I flew into the small town of Farmington, NM, about an hour from Four Corners Monument. Our plane was not much bigger than a Volkswagen Beetle. This particular corridor had been selected as a candidate for an In|Sync adaptive system due to its connection to the downtown district, regular traffic influxes from shopping in the eastern section, and heavy weekend traffic generated from nearby Indian reservations.

From an adaptive turn-on standpoint, it went about as smooth as getting through airport security. With the corridor consisting of 11 intersections, me being a bit of a greenhorn and the client only having one technician, the process to free up controllers and turn them adaptive went slower than planned. On our first day of deployment, after about a quarter of the intersections were in adaptive, we broke for lunch at an old-school diner. I had bacon and eggs and we talked about fly fishing – a popular hobby along the San Juan River – and the technician’s interests in rideable miniature model trains.

We were about to get back to it when the skies opened up and it started to pour. This tends to cause a problem with traffic signal cabinets as they consist of mostly electronic components. Luckily the technician had a pop-up tent and we worked undercover for the rest of the deployment. When 4:00 p.m. rolled around, I expected the tech to check-out, mainly because he’d been working since 6:00 a.m. Knowing the importance of the project and being excited for the outcome, the tech opted to stay on until the job was done. So we worked until 8:30 p.m., way past what a normal deployment takes, to finalize the adaptive turn on.

Fast-forward to post deployment when the project is up and running and in support mode.The technician would occasionally call or send an email for support. He always ended each call or email with a show of appreciation for our guidance and for the impact In|Sync had in his community. He’s become a super-fan of In|Sync and witnessed first-hand the dramatic improvement in his corridor, to the point that citizens and city workers call-in to say how easy and stress-free their commutes are.

Ultimately, the working relationship we have with Farmington is what we strive for with all our clients at Rhythm Engineering. When clients experience the benefits first-hand and witness the positive impact In|Sync has on their community, we feel we’ve not just met their expectations, but surpassed them.

To see a third party study on the E. Main St. Corridor in Farmington, NM, navigate to this link and select the independent study by AECOM (Farmington, NM). https://rhythmtraffic.com/resources/library/

Rhythm EngineeringLarge Scale In|Sync Deployments: A View From the Field
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In|Sync Releases Alarm Notifications

Knowing when issues arise at your intersections is an important element in keeping traffic flowing at all times. Our goal in developing In|Sync’s first alarm notification system was to alert our partners of any issues going on at their intersections so they can be corrected quickly.

But we failed to realize two important facts – not all alarms are alike and too many alarms can result in alarm fatigue. Alarm fatigue is a sensory overload where a person is exposed to an excessive number of alarms. It can lead to longer response times, or in the case of the short story “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” it can lead to ignored life-threatening events. The Cry Wolf syndrome was leading to our partners ignoring all alarms or turning off notifications altogether.

So we analyzed our current alarm notifications and removed ones that did not require corrective action. We also added new notifications that do require corrective action, such as a traffic light not responding. We then prioritized each alarm condition based on the impact the condition would have on the operation of In|Sync at the intersection.

Based on this priority, we designed an alarm recurrence frequency that was custom for each alarm type. For instance, selecting a recurring alarm for minor issues such as stuck ped detectors results in receiving a notification upon the detection of the stuck ped detector, twelve hours after the stuck ped detector was flagged and every 24 hours after until the ped issue is resolved. However, an intersection in flash alarm is a condition that needs immediate attention, so the recurrence level set on this alarm type is:

● Once the alarm is detected
● 15 min later
● 1 hour later
● 2 hours later
● 4 hours later
● 8 hours later
● 12 hours later
● 24 hours later, and ongoing at 24 hours until the alarm is resolved

We also recognized that there were users in the system that just wanted to be alerted of an alarm at the start of the condition and once the condition was resolved. For these type of users, we added the non-recurring alarm option.

Through eliminating unnecessary or confusing alarm notifications and defining a smarter recurring frequency notification system based on severity, In|Sync now ensures that our partners will receive the appropriate alerts at the right frequency.

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“We Ought to Run Government Like a Business!”

By Jesse J. Manning, Vice President of Business Development

How many times have you heard this refrain over the course of the last several decades of political campaigns? In a capitalist society that celebrates the ingenuity of entrepreneurial organizations, political candidates and voters alike have often wondered why we don’t replicate business strategies in our council chambers, our state legislatures and in the White House. It was a common talking point in 2016 when a businessman with no political background won the presidency.

Mostly dependent on your political beliefs, those results have been mixed. But as those of us who have either worked in government or worked with government know, government is not a business. For all the things we can learn from businesses, their processes are all about profit. And, as John Harvey wrote in Forbes in 2012, “not everything that is profitable is of social value and not everything of social value is profitable.”

But what are some of those “profit-driving” factors that could work well for government agencies, particularly in terms of providing new public goods and services? These common business drivers may help your own agency operate with a bit more efficiency:

1. Seek Targeted Customer Feedback

Businesses often survey their customers, either formally or informally. Governments do too; however, the citizen surveys that I’ve come across often attempt to be all-encompassing when it comes to issues. Specific government departments may receive better, more-helpful feedback by lowering the number of recipients and expected responses and targeting specific issues. For example, rather than asking “What’s the number one issue of concern in the City?” ask, “What’s the number one transportation-related issue in the City?”

Answers in general surveys may be overly broad, but a more-targeted survey can help identify specific issues that could be dealt with quickly and inexpensively. For example, if “traffic signal synchronization on Main Street” appears a few times in a targeted survey, traffic engineers have a specific, citizen-identified issue to look into and possibly fix. Such specificity rarely appears in broad surveys, and even if it does, it’s masked by more-generalized answers. Short, targeted surveys make it easier for citizens to respond, as well.

2. Set Timelines

Setting goals and sticking to them is a critical aspect of business success. While it’s hard to imagine governments setting quotas for daily activities or monthly results, project timelines are one area where government accountability could use a kick in the pants. Having sold to governments for over a decade, I’ve seen projects that drift aimlessly for months … and sometimes years … because there was no shared understanding of a project timeline.

When engaging in a project, particularly with multiple stakeholders, set firm timelines up front and hold each other accountable to them. Planning detailed timelines (rather than the simple, and rather meaningless, timelines in most RFPs) can help break up projects into bite-sized chunks that are much more manageable and aren’t as susceptible to delays.

3. Allow in Outside Help

One of the most frustrating aspects of selling to government agencies is being treated with skepticism at best; often, we’re seen as an outright enemy. And I get it: salespeople can be icky, particularly if they don’t understand their products. If they’re pushy, it’s worse. But if you happen to find one who’s willing to educate — not just badmouth his competition or try to woo you with insider gossip and steak dinners — a salesperson can be an ally in actually getting things done.

Staff can save a lot of time if they simply include their vendors in presentations to decision-makers and  have an agreed-upon strategy ahead of time: focus on ROI, educate rather than sell and show a mutually-developed plan for getting the project completed. I’ve found that government staff often believe they need to operate in isolation when it comes to seeking approvals for those projects that may benefit the public. They don’t.


In many ways, government will never operate like a business. But if the goal is to replicate some of the more-efficient functions of a business, there is room for improvement. The three points above focus on streamlining decision-making processes, which seem to be a particular challenge for agencies regardless of location or size. However, if you include citizens in decision-making processes, set firm timelines for implementation of those decisions, and allow those seeking your business to do the heavy lifting, you’ll soon start hearing, “Now
that’s how a government ought to run!”

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The Success of the Kansas City Streetcar

By Ryan Broomfield, Systems Architect

As a resident of downtown Kansas City, Missouri and a Systems Architect at Rhythm Engineering, I am filled with an enormous sense of pride and satisfaction to be making a difference nationally and also locally in my own community.

One of my favorite corridors we have developed technology for is the corridor that serves the Kansas City Streetcar. The Streetcar is a project that has exceeded every projection and has been an instrumental addition to the ongoing revitalization of Kansas City’s downtown. Original estimates of riders were highly ambitious and put daily ridership at 2,700. Incredibly, ridership has beat all expectations and averages over 5,000 per day resulting in numerous expansion initiatives and funding approval for additional cars.

Not only has the Streetcar been successful based on its own projections, it is one of the most successful streetcar projects in the country beating out similar projects with both free ridership and paid fares in cities across the U.S., including Atlanta, Washington D.C. and Seattle.

The system has become a national example to other cities of how a streetcar can be successful and for locals it is a strong source of KC pride. Additionally, the system has earned rave reviews from riders about being clean and well-lit, as well as being the transportation method of choice for downtown entertainment options.

Rhythm Engineering has contributed to this project by being the adaptive provider of choice for the traffic signals located along the Streetcar route. Balancing vehicle, pedestrian and streetcar demand in the heart of a major city’s urban grid is a challenging task for any adaptive system, and In|Sync delivers proven results.  

In|Sync accomplishes this feat by incorporating Transit Signal Priority (TSP) into its core algorithm. Many other TSP solutions take a naive approach and simply extend green intervals, create a forced early return to green, or, in some cases, abandon coordination and go into a transition state. In|Sync works with TSP differently in that we balance TSP demand as another type of important demand, rather than performing a deliberately responsive action.  It also doesn’t abandon coordination to accomplish this goal.

While this approach is less direct, it has resulted in significant improvements for the Streetcar’s travel time since it began public operation in May of 2016. A significant, measured reduction in travel time for the Streetcar was achieved over the baseline operation of In|Sync’s adaptive technology when measured with before/after studies. Here are some travel time studies that were performed on the Streetcar corridor with TSP enabled and without TSP enabled.

Personally, it has been a pleasure to ride the streetcar. I have used it for easy access to cherished Kansas City landmarks, such as Union Station and World War 1 Memorial, all the way down to the historic River Market, where fresh produce can be bought at the Farmers Market. Along the way, there are a variety of wonderful businesses, some old, some new, that benefit from the increased exposure of the streetcar. It’s absolutely worth spending a few days to discover some new favorite haunts, destination spots and storefronts.

Overall, we are all proud at Rhythm Engineering to have been a part of such a successful project and to have delivered on our mission of helping citizens get to their destinations faster and safer. We look forward to contributing to the future expansion and success of the Kansas City Streetcar.

Rhythm EngineeringThe Success of the Kansas City Streetcar
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Autonomous Vehicle Technology – The Future of Traffic Engineering is Happening Now

By Dr. Reggie Chandra, PE

Traffic engineering in the future will be intimately connected to how the cars of the future operate.  We are less than a decade away from seeing this microchip technology, which will equip vehicles to monitor what is happening all around them and act accordingly.

How Did We Get Here?

The Kurzweil Curve reveals the power of technology will keep growing exponentially, according to Ray Kurzweil. His prediction is that by 2050, you will be able to buy a device with the computational capacity of all mankind for the price of a nice refrigerator today.1 Kurzweil continues that within the past 60 years, life in the industrialized world has changed almost beyond recognition except for living memories from the first half of the 20th Century. This pattern will culminate in unimaginable technological progress in the 21st Century, leading to a singularity.1

Singularity is defined as an era in which our intelligence will become increasingly non-biological and trillions of times more powerful than it is today — the dawning of a new civilization that will enable us to transcend our biological limitations and amplify our creativity.2

Already examples exist of this foresight in the car of the future technology. The Wall Street Journal reports that self-driving cars, or the autonomous vehicle, are on the horizon. Widespread embrace of self-driving vehicles could eliminate 90% of all auto accidents in the U.S., prevent up to $190 billion in damages and health-costs annually and save thousands of lives, according to a new report by consulting firm McKinsey & Co, as reported by WSJ. The report, compiled after interviews with dozens of industry officials, also predicts mass adoption of auto-piloted vehicles beginning in about 15 years and initial implementations early next decade.3

According to Reuters, fully autonomous vehicles could make up nearly 10% of global vehicle sales, or about 12 million cars a year, by 2035. The Boston Consulting Group added manufacturers and suppliers are rapidly rolling out new hardware designed to speed adaptation of self-driving systems. Carmakers Mercedes-Benz®, Audi® and BMW® demonstrated vehicles with various autonomous capabilities to show attendees at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Daimler’s chief executive, Dieter Zetsche, and Audi’s chief technology officer, Ulrich Hackenberg, said they expect various autonomous systems to be rolled out in stages over the next five to 10 years.4

Emerging Technologies

Before vehicles begin to drive people around, there are other technologies that are already on the market to help make motorists’ lives easier.

  1. The Waze app:“Helps motorists navigate traffic better. Drivers enter their destination and the app displays several route options, enabling drivers to avoid accidents, traffic jams and roads affected by weather. It will also update the driver on changes in traffic.”6
  2. Traffic Light Assist: “Promises to help motorists make every green light. Using both live and predictive data beamed into the vehicle’s navigation unit via onboard Wi-Fi, local data sources provide information about traffic light patterns. The in-car system uses that data and the motion of the car to predict exactly how long it will be until the green light turns red.  Audi® has been testing this system in Europe as well as in Las Vegas, NV.”7
  3. Mobileye: “Reduces the risks of traffic accidents, thus saving lives. The EyeQ® chip (now in its 3rd generation) performs detailed interpretations of the visual field in order to anticipate possible collisions with other licensed vehicles, pedestrians, animals, debris and other obstacles. The product also detects roadway lanes, road boundaries, and barriers, as well as reads traffic signs and traffic lights. This technology is currently being tested with several carmakers.”8
  4. Cruise System: “Available for installation on your 2012 or newer Audi A4 or S4, although there is a wait list now. The technology, called RP-1, uses a combination of sensors, radar, and cameras to drive the vehicle. Using advanced computer vision and obstacle detection, the RP-1 keeps the car in its lane and a safe distance from vehicles in front of it.”9

The future looks like it is moving toward self-driving vehicle technology through advanced microchip technology. But how does it work?

Autonomous Vehicle Technology

The Google driverless car, now called Waymo, uses an array of detection technologies, including sonar devices, stereo cameras, lasers, and radar, according to an article in Extreme Tech. The light detection ranging (LIDAR) system is at the heart of object detection, according to Google engineers. It’s highly accurate up to a range of 100 meters, and although there is several detection technologies on the car that work at greater distances, they do not have the kind of accuracy that LIDAR can provide. The article states the LIDAR system can rotate 360-degrees and take up to 1.3 million readings per second, making it the most versatile sensor on the car. Mounting it on top of the car ensures its view isn’t obstructed.10

Several carmakers have incorporated various technologies into a functioning autonomous vehicle. In an article titled “The Six Things I Learned From Riding in a Google Self-Driving Car” published in The Oatmeal, the author declares that human beings are terrible drivers with a plentitude of human errors; therefore self-driving cars can eliminate these errors. The Google car is programmed to act like “nervous student driver,” so it takes things slow and deliberate. The writer also notes that the technology, while still a work in progress, is wanted/needed “like…yesterday.”11

Volvo® has announced plans to test 100 self-driving vehicles on city streets by 2017. The development team outlined the “one-of-a-kind” pilot scheme that will see “ordinary people” in self-driving cars in an uncontrolled urban environment.12

Has this technology been tried out in a real world setting? Yes. The University of Michigan has designed a Safety Pilot Model Deployment, which is a scaled-down version of a future in which all vehicles will be connected. The model deployment experiment will discover how well connected vehicle safety technologies and systems work in a real-life environment with real drivers and vehicles. It will test performance, usability, and collect data to better understand the safety benefit of a larger scale deployment.13

According to an article in The MIT Technology Review, some of the results from the University of Michigan study are in. “After studying communication records for those vehicles, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) researchers concluded that the technology could prevent more than half a million accidents and more than a thousand fatalities in the United States every year. The technology stands to revolutionize the way we drive,” says John Maddox, a program director at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute.14

Shortly after the Ann Arbor trial ended, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that it would start drafting rules that could eventually mandate the use of car-to-car communication in new cars, according to the article in The Review. “More than five million crashes occur on U.S. roads alone every year, and more than 30,000 of those are fatal. The prospect of preventing many such accidents will provide significant impetus for networking technology.”14

What’s Next?

This journey began with the rapid growth in microchip technology and the how it will initially impact traffic engineering. Starting with driver-assistance technology currently on the market, to vehicle technology advancements, and finally a real-world scenario that brings of all these functions together, a world with self-driving cars is not that far away. However, as this microchip technology continues to advance, traffic signal technology lags far behind. What can be done to catch the industry up? That is exactly what Rhythm Engineering is working on.

 


 

About the Author

Dr. Reggie Chandra, PE, PTOE spent a large portion of his career as a public traffic engineer focused on optimizing and synchronizing signals. He grew frustrated with the tools available for him to perform his job. Dr. Chandra knew the traffic signal technology had fallen decades behind, creating crowded and unsafe roadways, smog, and wasted time and fuel. He also knew traffic engineers alone didn’t have all the answers.

In 2005, Dr. Chandra set out to find a solution. In February of 2008, his team flipped the switch on an artificially intelligent, digital, adaptive traffic signal system that could optimize signals to automatically adapt to traffic in real time.

Since its launch, In|Sync has become the most widely adopted adaptive traffic control systems in the United States. More U.S. traffic agencies select In|Sync than any other adaptive traffic control system, making it the fastest growing such system in U.S. history. As of January 2015, In|Sync is the solution of choice for more than 1500 intersections in 29 states. Independent studies prove that In|Sync reduces stops by up to 90%, cuts fuel consumption and emissions up to 30%, and even reduces accidents by up to 30%. Dr. Chandra currently serves as the Founder, President and CEO of Rhythm Engineering, LLC. The company has ranked twice on the Inc. 500 list of the fastest growing private companies in the U.S.

Born and raised in India, Dr. Chandra came to the United States with his wife Jenny at the age of 27 to pursue the American dream. He earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, a master’s degree in traffic engineering (Univ. of Florida) and a Ph.D. in organizational leadership (Regent University).

In 2012, Dr. Chandra released his first book, Shades of Green: Why Traffic Signals Frustrate You and What You Can Do to Fix Them. This book explains how traffic signals work and how we can fix the problem of unsynchronized traffic signals.

Dr. Chandra enjoys international travel with his friends and family, and finding ways to give back to society such as making dreams come true for adults facing life-threatening illness via The Dream Foundation, and also supports the Community Services League.

Citations

  1. Kurzweil, Ray (2001, March, 7) The Law of Accelerating Returns http://www.kurzweilai.net/the-law-of-accelerating-returns
  2. Kurzweil, Ray (2006) Viking Press, New York, NY – http://www.kurzweilai.net/the-law-of-accelerating-returns
  3. Ramsey, Mike (2015) published in The Wall Street Journal, Self Driving Cars Could Cut Down on Accidents, Study Says http://www.wsj.com/articles/self-driving-cars-could-cut-down-on-accidents-study-says-1425567905?KEYWORDS=self-driving+cars
  4. Reuters, (2015) published in Fortune, 12 million driverless cars to be on the road by 2035, study says http://fortune.com/2015/01/08/12-million-driverless-cars-to-be-on-the-road-by-2035-study-says/
  5. https://www.waze.com
  6. http://www.autoblog.com/2014/01/09/audi-traffic-light-assist-ces-2014/
  7. http://www.mobileye.com/
  8. http://www.getcruise.com
  9. Whitwam, Ryan (2014) published in Extreme Tech, How Google’s self-driving cars detect and avoid obstacles http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/189486-how-googles-self-driving-cars-detect-and-avoid-obstacles
  10. Inman, Matthew, (2015) published in The Oatmeal, 6 things I learned from driving in a Google Self-driving Car http://theoatmeal.com/blog/google_self_driving_car
  11. Bryant, Ross (2015) published in dezeen magazine, Volvo announced “one–of-a-kind” public tests for self-driving cars http://www.dezeen.com/2015/02/24/volvo-public-testing-self-driving-cars-2017-gothenburg/
  12. http://safetypilot.umtri.umich.edu
  13. Knight, Will (2015) published in Technology Review, Car-to-Car Communication: A simple wireless technology promises to make driving much safer. http://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/534981/car-to-car-communication/
Rhythm EngineeringAutonomous Vehicle Technology – The Future of Traffic Engineering is Happening Now
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