Widening roads to accommodate increased traffic is not always a viable improvement option when considering the needs of bicyclists, pedestrians, and the impacts on adjacent neighborhoods. In a developed urban area like Pinellas County, there are few opportunities to build new roads or widen existing ones without significantly impacting established communities or environmentally sensitive land. In order to manage congestion and improve mobility, the Forward Pinellas looks to utilize emerging and adaptive technologies.
Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) improvements maximize the operational efficiency of the road network and include signal timing coordination, traffic monitoring devices and dynamic message signs. Additional ITS technology includes real-time congestion and auto travel information, transit trip planning, mobile ticketing, bike/car sharing, and vanpooling technology. Pinellas County has made considerable investments in ITS technology as a solution to addressing congestion. An ITS Implementation Plan for Pinellas County was completed in 2009. The Plan called for the installation of an extensive array of advanced traffic management system improvements on major roadways including signal pre-emption for emergency vehicles, closed circuit television cameras (CCTV) and electronic message signs. The Plan also included the coordination of signal systems through a primary control center. In the next five years, ITS applications such as those noted above, will have been implemented on most of the county’s major roadways. When complete there will be:
- 91 Dynamic Message Signs;
- 235 traffic monitoring cameras at intersections; and
- 430 remotely-controlled traffic signals.
Future technology is being developed today with autonomous vehicles. Already making its way into the marketplace, this technology has the ability to increase travel reliability and safety. Although there are still regulatory and legislative hurdles to overcome, market experts speculate that fully autonomous (driverless) vehicles could be available for purchase around 2020. Autonomous vehicles could create a driving or commuting atmosphere that provides time savings by allowing drivers to complete other tasks while they would otherwise been navigating the wheel.
Individual functions of fully-automated vehicles, such as braking assistance, blind-spot detection, and cruise control, are already in place. However, communication between vehicles and the transportation infrastructure has not been implemented and will require further development the realize the benefit of a fully automated vehicle. For more information on efforts in Florida to support and enhance autonomous vehicles efforts, please visit: http://www.automatedfl.com/.