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Telematics Data Helps Smart Cities Minimize Pollution, Gridlock and More

A city is only as smart as the data it collects.
By Mike Branch

For instance, if vehicles are frequently braking hard in a certain area, it could indicate an intersection that needs a dedicated turn lane. If they're frequently driving below the speed limit, it could indicate a stretch of road that requires an additional lane. Or if they're frequently circling the same few blocks, it could indicate a chronic shortage of parking—and a need for a new public transit stop or line if adding surface lots or a garage isn't viable.

Telematics data can include information that has nothing to do with the vehicle itself. For example, in Houston and other cities, the Environmental Defense Fund has outfitted vehicles with IoT devices that monitor air quality. The same approach could be applied to, for example, vehicle-mounted cameras that analyze traffic and interactions with pedestrians.

Just a Few Vehicles Can Yield Big Insights
Municipal fleets, such as waste-collection trucks, buses and emergency response vehicles, are a natural place to start since they often already have telematics systems in place. Like the traffic camera example, applying analytics tools to telematics enables these existing investments to perform double duty.

The municipal fleet's telematics data can be augmented with information from other public and private fleets for additional and deeper insights. For example, commercial fleet owners may be willing to share anonymized versions of their telematics data if they believe it will lead to less fuel and driver productivity wasted sitting in traffic jams. Another source is the U.S. Postal Service, which wants to share its telematics data with smart cities. Its 211,000-plus vehicles comprise the world's largest civilian fleet, which traveled 1.4 billion miles in 2018.

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