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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-19-002    Date:  Winter 2019
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-19-002
Issue No: Vol. 82 No. 4
Date: Winter 2019

 

Getting Connected in Wyoming

by Edward Fok, Vince Garcia, and Kate Hartman

The Wyoming Department of Transportation is integrating connected vehicle technology into its statewide transportation management center.

WYDOT
Photo. An operator sits at his desk in front of more than a dozen monitors showing different screens of road and weather data.
In Wyoming, transportation management centers (TMC’s) play a major role in integrating connected vehicle data into a highway agency’s systems. Here, an operator in WYDOT’s TMC is monitoring highways by watching a plethora of screens displaying road and weather condition information.

 

The ability to share and use electronic messages generated and sent by connected vehicle (CV) applications has the potential for immediate beneficial impacts. CVs is a broad term to describe the applications (software) that translate electronic messages shared between connected devices (hardware and traffic management systems) into the formats required to enable the use of this information. These applications and devices are designed to save lives, improve personal mobility, enhance economic productivity, reduce environmental impacts, and transform public agency operations.

On September 1, 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded three cooperative agreements—collectively worth more than $45 million—to initiate a design-build-test phase of the Connected Vehicle Pilot Deployment Program in New York City; Tampa, FL; and Wyoming. The program is a national effort to deploy, test, and operationalize cutting-edge mobile and roadside technologies and enable multiple CV applications.

For its CV pilot, the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) plans to equip 400 vehicles with onboard units and deploy around 75 roadside units (RSU) along the State’s 402 miles (647 kilometers) of I–80.

From October 2015 to September 2016, there were more than 1,600 crashes on I–80 in Wyoming, including 18 with fatalities and 271 with injuries. During that same time period, roads were closed to all vehicles for more than 1,500 hours. The societal impact of these crashes topped $865 million.

In Wyoming, participation in this program came with the realization that the pilot would require the integration of the electronic messages generated by CVs into WYDOT’s existing traffic management system and its day-to-day operations.

“Wyoming considers CVs the perfect tool to overcome the area coverage limitations of its fixed data collection stations on its highway network,” says Bill Panos, WYDOT director. “From the concept development stage, we considered how the new technologies and data fit with existing functions of the agency and the statewide transportation management system.”

The Transportation “Hub”

WYDOT’s Transportation Management Center (TMC) serves as the nerve center of managing the day-to-day operation of Wyoming’s highways. The TMC is responsible for maintenance dispatching on roadways and serves as the hub for all road condition, incident, and construction reporting activities that affect the transportation system.

The TMC is staffed 24/7 with up to seven people on the floor during winter storms and as few as two on calmer summer days. The TMC receives information from State Patrol dispatch, WYDOT maintenance employees, trained volunteers, and WYDOT construction employees via radio, phone, and electronic submission. Staff use the information to update reporting systems. The TMC staff also work closely with an onsite meteorologist and the National Weather Service to anticipate weather-related issues, plan for appropriate road maintenance, and send a consistent message to the public about what to expect.

For the pilot deployment, integrating and using data from CVs into the TMC was critical. The TMC is the host of traffic operations-related data, data management, and communication tools (used to send information to third parties). Functionally, the TMC is the entity in charge of ingesting, processing, archiving, and distributing information related to the day-to-day operation of the roadways managed by WYDOT, making it a natural fit for adding and managing data captured from CVs.

Traveler Information

WYDOT houses and supports many tools that disseminate traveler and roadway condition information to thousands of users of Wyoming’s highway network. Two important examples are WYDOT’s 511 system and the Commercial Vehicle Operator Portal. More than 870,000 phone calls come into the 511 phone system during an average winter each year, and the 511App has more than 130,000 downloads. Likewise, more than 150 companies have signed up to be part of the Commercial Vehicle Operator Portal, which currently provides forecasted road condition information on common commercial vehicle routes for freight operations via its website.

These are two examples of the tools that will provide information to or receive information from Wyoming’s CV pilot project.

Challenges with Sharing Information

CVs present a challenge for traffic management systems because of the granularity, speed, and volume of data they collect, save, and use. WYDOT was mainly concerned with maintaining a sustainable workload for the staff involved in the operation of the TMC, ensuring that the TMC would be able to continue operation in the event of a CV system failure and guaranteeing a secure system that respects the privacy of users.

“Budgets are tight, and we can’t expect to get additional personnel in our TMC to carry out any additional functions or services that may be required to use data generated from CVs,” says Kevin Cox, TMC supervisor with WYDOT. “As such, it’s critical that we integrate the use of CV data into the existing functions and operation of our TMC.”

WYDOT staff already have a significant burden on their shoulders, ensuring that all highway maintenance and operation work is performed as fast and efficiently as possible. WYDOT wanted to ensure that its staff would not be further burdened with “making the system work,” but rather that the new pilot project would be perceived by the staff as another source of information—another “tool in their toolbox”—that seamlessly integrates with their daily operation.

Critical to the challenge was finding a way to translate electronic messages sent by CVs into actionable information. Data produced by CVs could not be directly transmitted to the TMC operators in an unprocessed or unfiltered state because the information would not be useful to them. For WYDOT, it was imperative to integrate CV data into the TMC without having to completely rebuild the TMC.

Finally, WYDOT was concerned about security risks to the TMC that may arise from collecting and sharing data generated by CVs. Arguably, the main challenges with any system sending and receiving data are ensuring it is done securely and protecting sensitive data. It was important for WYDOT to consider potential security breaches of the system, as well as possible compromises of sensitive information, as the agency sought the continued participation of the freight industry during and after the pilot project.

WYDOT
Photo. A long antenna is mounted next to a thicker chrome pole with a platform on the top.
This dedicated short-range communications antenna, installed on a WYDOT snowplow, enables communication between vehicles and infrastructure.

 

WYDOT
Photo. A tablet computer mounted in the center console of snowplow.
This human-machine interface (a tablet computer) is installed in a WYDOT snowplow.

 

Maintaining a secure and private system provides a challenge to agencies from an operations and monitoring perspective. The question is, how can you monitor and measure the full impact of a system while maintaining the required levels of privacy? The focus is on ensuring data from messages sent by CVs are collected, used, and shared in a manner that ensures the protection of sensitive information. WYDOT needs to prove to Wyoming’s policy/decisionmakers and to its constituents that this technology worth investing in beyond the duration of the pilot project.

Lessons Learned

WYDOT used a system engineering approach to develop the design, deployment, and operation guidelines of its pilot project. During the design process, WYDOT assessed what existing external assets and internal capabilities of the TMC it could leverage, resulting in interfaces and modifications made to the TMC to support the project. In general, the project consists of devices installed on vehicles, devices installed within the roadway of the area being tested, and modifications to WYDOT’s TMC.

Wyoming CV System Performance Dashboard
Screen capture. An electronic dashboard shows a map of Wyoming with several points locating each roadside infrastructure installed along Interstate 80. Performance measures are displayed below the map.
The performance dashboard illustrates the connection and performance status of all roadside infrastructure.
Source: WYDOT

 

WYDOT’s experience in developing and integrating data from CVs into its TMC while considering the security, data management, and operator requirements highlighted the following practices and lessons learned.

Leverage existing open-source software to integrate CV data into the TMC. WYDOT identified current efforts to develop software and work in conjunction with the developers to integrate them into the CV pilot project. This helped save significant time and yielded a more robust system, one built on top of previous experience.

Examples of software components that were incorporated into this project are the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Joint Program Office’s (JPO) Operational Data Environment (ODE) and the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s Pikalert®. The ODE ingests and processes connected vehicle data from various devices—including vehicles, infrastructure, and TMCs—and distributes the information to selected components of a traffic management system (for example, data warehouses). Pikalert ingests weather data from different sources, including CVs, and generates advisories on current and forecasted road and weather conditions for a variety of users.

Focus on the interfaces. WYDOT’s design approach highlighted the advantages of focusing on which interfaces the team needed to develop to send, receive, and manage electronic messages or specific CV data. This strategy helped identify the gaps in existing systems and the devices and changes needed to the TMC software and hardware platforms to enable the exchange and use of new data. WYDOT was able to sort out which ITS applications could remain as-is, which needed to be developed and deployed, and which needed modifications.

Have a “friendly” vehicle fleet (if possible). WYDOT employed security and safety procedures to eliminate the tracking of all equipment or devices used for the pilot project (for example, equipment installed on participating commercial vehicles that are privately owned). However, WYDOT was able to equip many of its own vehicles it could track and control, such as its own snowplows, enabling a more robust monitoring of the system’s operational performance, especially during the testing phase.

WYDOT
Photo. Man installs tablet device into center console of a vehicle.
A member of the WYDOT crew installs the onboard units.

 

Translate CV data into information for the TMC. WYDOT estimates the CV pilot project produces about 50 million electronic messages per day in addition to the 1 million already being generated by variable speed limit sensors and road weather information systems. TMC operators simply cannot interpret these electronic messages in their entirety given their magnitude and format. Building from past experience, WYDOT clearly needed tools and procedures to ingest, process, and analyze CV data—more than those that exist in a research and development environment—to provide actionable data to TMC staff. The WYDOT TMC uses both the ODE and Pikalert systems to translate raw CV data, such as basic safety messages, into discrete, useful information for TMC operators.

Create user-friendly dashboards and tools to monitor performance. A clear need exists for dashboards to enable continuous monitoring of the various hardware and software that compose the CV pilot project. The dashboards serve multiple purposes for WYDOT—from providing visibility of the entire CV pilot infrastructure deployment for TMC operators to providing important data for performance measurement and becoming an effective public engagement tool (the public can see the posted messages and how many CVs have passed by the roadside units).

Create a security and data management framework. From the beginning, WYDOT envisioned a project that would follow “secure by design” principles that cover the process of forming, distributing, collecting, using, storing, and discarding data from CVs and TMC systems. To do this, the team looked at the human and technical aspects of the TMC to ensure they employed proper data management techniques. Every member of WYDOT’s project team and TMC who might have access to the data was required to pass a background check and successfully complete hours of training on ethical research and protection of personally identifiable information. Access to information is limited to those individuals who need it for their job functions.

WYDOT has employed advanced encryption of databases and in-transit data packets, along with employing firewalls, hardware security modules, and software developed by USDOT to credential authorized vehicles that participated in this project. The entire project, from vehicle to the TMC, was evaluated to ensure the latest security techniques were in place.

Involve broader State enterprise. Integrating CV data into existing systems and operations requires a team effort with different skills to plan, design, develop, modify, and test the changes needed in both hardware and software. WYDOT reached out to several departments and divisions within its institutional structure, including Telecommunications, Enterprise Technology Services (the State’s centralized information technology agency), the Equipment team, and the Maintenance team, and involved them in the project early on.

Re-envision existing systems. WYDOT not only leveraged efforts by other agencies/institutions, but also looked internally at its own systems and capabilities. WYDOT already had a robust network of data users and data suppliers—with its many traveler information outlets being visited and used by thousands of I–80 users on a daily basis—an efficient data distribution system, and a secure data archiving system. WYDOT assessed each component and identified how it could improve each one to further extend the reach of the CV pilot project. For instance, WYDOT extended its Commercial Vehicle Operator Portal and modified the Transportation Report and Action Console to accommodate Pikalert’s advisories and alerts. Similarly, WYDOT upgraded its incident and construction consoles to automate processes, improving its integration and management of CV data.

Develop a critical path for development. Wyoming’s project deployed five applications on devices installed in vehicles along with updates to several components to WYDOT’s traffic management and traveler information systems. Given the varying degree of interdependencies, WYDOT used an agile development approach instead of the traditional waterfall approach (that is, in sequence) to develop this project. This enabled WYDOT to reach its goals within the tight schedule for development.

Moving Forward

In Wyoming, the integration of data from CVs into the TMC is not only providing more robust information for road management, but it is also propelling the revamp of existing services. The planning, design, and deployment of the CV pilot project has already positively impacted WYDOT’s TMC, helping the agency identify gaps in its existing systems and policies, as well as identifying “low-hanging fruits” for improvement.

WYDOT
Photo. Two crew members in orange jackets and hard hats install a roadside unit.
WYDOT crew members also installed roadside units, as shown here.

 

Technologies are already installed on some vehicles to provide CV-related functions, and many of these functions are expected to be common among all vehicles in the future. With this in mind and by understanding the positive impact these technologies may have on the surface transportation system, WYDOT intends to continue to offer a functioning system to support the use of connected devices installed on vehicles after the performance and evaluation period of the pilot project, which ends in April 2020. The installed roadside units and all invehicle equipment will remain operational in WYDOT vehicles. WYDOT is encouraging fleet partners to continue being part of the system.

WYDOT sees the integration of CVs into its TMC as instrumental for improving road management capabilities on I–80 and the rest of Wyoming’s highways. “Assuming the pilot proves successful, we hope to expand the project statewide and to introduce new vehicle-to-everything applications as they become available,” says Pat Lewis, chief technology officer at WYDOT. “WYDOT is also looking into adjacent States to coordinate any efforts to further expand and connect corridors.”

Look for more features on connected vehicles in upcoming issues of PUBLIC ROADS.


Edward Fok is a transportation technologies specialist with FHWA’s Resource Center. Fok is experienced in many facets of advanced transportation systems for both metropolitan and Federal governments. One of his current roles is FHWA’s lead on tackling transportation cyber resiliency challenges. He holds an M.S. in electrical engineering and a B.S. in mechanical engineering. He is a licensed electrical engineer and transportation engineer.

Vince Garcia has worked for WYDOT in various capacities for more than 30 years. Currently, he manages the GIS/ITS Program for WYDOT and serves as the site lead for the CV pilot project. He is a graduate of the University of Wyoming with a degree in civil engineering.

Kate Hartman has more than 15 years of experience at the USDOT and serves as chief of research, evaluation, and management at the ITS JPO. She has worked in CV technology research for a number of years and currently manages the USDOT CV Pilot Deployment Program. She has a B.A. in economics, an M.B.A., and a Project Management Professional® certification.

For more information, including frequent updates, resources, and documentation on the USDOT CV Pilot Deployment Program, see www.its.dot.gov/pilots/index.htm. For updates on the Wyoming CV pilot project implementation, see https://wydotcvp.wyoroad.info or contact Vince Garcia at 307–777–4231 or Vince.Garcia@wyo.gov.

 

 

 

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