4 ways technology could ease Nashville’s traffic crunch

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Politics, religion … and now traffic.  

All are proving to be risky topics at any Nashville dinner party these days.

The failed Nashville transit plan managed to pit friends against friends and family against family, each side making very valid arguments to support their position but neither willing to budge.

There is still hope, though. 

CLOSE

The Nashville transit referendum was defeated by voters on Tuesday, May 1.
Michael Schwab, The Tennessean

The transit plan that divided us is rooted in something we can all agree on: traffic is bad.

More: Nashville transit: How did you vote and why? We want your feedback

Our common traffic frustrations, and the prospects of it getting worse, is something that neither side wants.  Despite the failed vote, we all seem to agree something must be done.

Enter tech.

Technologists (aka “computer geeks”) tend to relish finding solutions to problems that look unsolvable.  Even when we fail, the process of thinking way outside of the box is actually fun for us.

With this in mind, I decided to get a group of Nashville techies together to brainstorm alternative traffic optimization options.  The only ground rule for our discussion was that no idea was a bad idea — we wanted to encourage each other to think about traffic conundrums the same way we would think about technology problems.

Here’s a few of the ideas we came up with:

A.I.-enabled traffic lights 

Surtrac, an innovative start-up that was spawned out of Carnegie Mellon University, has built an “artificial intelligence enabled traffic light system.”  Combining A.I., cameras, radar and traffic theory research, traffic lights communicate with each other in real time to optimize traffic flow.  So far, initial tests in Pittsburgh have reduced drive-times by 25 percent.

Telecommuting tax incentive program  

Three participants in our anti-traffic brain trust work for companies that allow them to work from home.  As Google Fiber pushes Nashville toward super high-speed Internet and as cloud-based applications make us all more mobile, telecommuting is becoming easier and more productive than ever before.  If the government were to incentivize companies that allow employees to work from home, telecommuting would grow and cars on the road during rush hour would decrease.

More: Google Fiber is expanding to these Nashville neighborhoods

Braking optimization app   

We’ve all been there, driving down I-24 when traffic seems to stop for no reason.  Studies show that a majority of interstate traffic jams are due to how we drivers manage our braking.  Just one “heavy braker” can cause a chain reaction that backs up traffic for miles.  The future of driverless cars argues for a mass of vehicles driving down the road communicating with each other where no unnecessary braking ever happens. But since this vision is likely a long way off, a few apps are being tested that communicate with human drivers to optimize traffic flow.  Honda beta-tested an app and found that traffic jams were reduced by four minutes and fuel efficiency was increased by 20 percent.

Parking spot finder

Finding a parking spot in Nashville has become harder than writing a hit song.  This results in what transit engineers call “cruising” traffic, which can clog up busy areas like downtown. “Smart parking” apps are popping up in Nashville and other cities that give drivers real-time information on available metered parking spaces, along with directions on how to get there.  Less cruising would be less traffic.

These are just a few of the tech-based ideas that our informal group of computer geeks came up with.  Far from claiming to be traffic engineers or politicians, we felt that it was time for Nashville’s hardcore techies to give our two cents on this complex problem.

To be continued…

JJ Rosen is the founder of Atiba, a Nashville IT consulting, software development, and website design firm.  Visit Atiba online at www.atiba.com and www.atibanetworkservices.com

 

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