How public-private-philanthropic partnerships are driving transportation technology6 minutes
Over half a century ago, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, which kicked off construction of the nation’s first interstate highway system. Designed to link America’s major cities, the interstate plan proved a huge undertaking that spanned 40,000 miles and several decades. And it was funded almost entirely by the federal government, with state governments covering the remaining 10% of costs.
Today, we rarely see public works projects of this scale, in part because the government is either reluctant or unable to fund such large and ambitious plans with public dollars. This means we need to explore new models for financing and managing these efforts.
Funding the roadways of the future
One such option is the public-private-philanthropic partnership. In this model, funding for a project can be split between a government agency and a nonprofit organization. Together, the two can seek out a partner from the private sector to execute on the project. This blend of public and philanthropic capital combined with private-sector competencies and efficiencies makes for a novel way to address the changing transportation mobility issues that the country is facing.
While government agencies are tasked with ensuring the safety and promoting the welfare of their citizens, they can be risk averse. Philanthropic organizations, on the other hand, have more flexibility to innovate untested or little-known solutions to social or societal issues. When both entities share a common goal, it’s easy to see the potential these partnerships offer.
By combining forces in pursuit of a shared vision, governments and philanthropic organizations can create an avenue for testing bold and innovative ideas without having to go “all in” with public dollars. This not only secures an alternative source of funding for public works projects, it also can provide a proof of concept to help the partnership secure other funding sources.
Another benefit of these partnerships is that they don’t have to stop when a government changes hands. Often, elections and leadership changes can cause uncertainty about the future of a public works project. Public-private-philanthropic partnerships mitigate some of this risk, often allowing projects to continue to move forward without government resources.
Panasonic joins forces with The Ray and Georgia Department of Transportation
For a real-life example of how a public-private-philanthropic partnership can work to improve people’s lives, one need look no further than Georgia. When the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) sought to launch a pilot program to roll out intelligent roadways and connected vehicle technology, it found a willing partner in The Ray.
Named after industrial sustainability champion Ray C. Anderson, The Ray is an 18-mile stretch of Interstate 85 in Troup County, Georgia, about halfway between Atlanta and Montgomery, Alabama. The road section serves as a proving ground for reinventing what a highway could and should be, a living laboratory for technologies that make driving safer, smarter and more sustainable. In collaborating on the connected vehicle data ecosystem pilot, The Ray and GDOT are working to realize a shared vision of improved mobility on Georgia's roads. The two entities are equal partners in funding the project, with the Federal Highway Administration covering the remaining costs.
Georgia DOT and The Ray chose Panasonic as their technology partner in implementing this vehicle-to-everything (V2X) data ecosystem. The CIRRUS by Panasonic data management platform will provide real-time insight into road conditions along The Ray as a proving ground, allowing GDOT to identify and possibly even anticipate issues in seconds, then deploy resources to redirect traffic with the important goal of preventing incidents and saving lives.
The benefits of V2X technology
To improve road safety, infrastructure owners need insight into how, when and where incidents occur. Perhaps there is a specific turn where 70 crashes happen each year, or maybe there is a spot where hydroplaning is common due to flash flooding. Having that kind of information in real time can help to mitigate dangerous and traffic-snarling situations – and V2X technology can provide it.
As innovation progresses, V2X technology is also being designed to work with vehicle systems to reduce incidents caused by situations like distracted driving and hazardous road conditions. As automakers increasingly invest in autonomous and connected vehicle technology, transportation agencies can prepare the infrastructure to play a critical role in this communication ecosystem. When vehicles share a common awareness of other vehicles and roadway conditions, this can lead to safer, more efficient travel experiences.
The CIRRUS by Panasonic V2X platform will enable Georgia DOT to leverage real-time, location-specific data collected from road-side units and connected vehicles to glean insights into traffic and road conditions on The Ray. With the ability to respond to roadway issues immediately – or even prevent issues before they occur – GDOT can improve safety, ease traffic congestion, shorten commute times and reduce CO2 emissions.
Trailblazers in intelligent transportation
In deploying its connected vehicle pilot program, Georgia now joins a handful of forward-thinking states in pioneering intelligent transportation initiatives.
In 2016, the Colorado Department of Transportation announced that it was partnering with Panasonic to implement V2X technology along a 90-mile stretch of highway between Denver and Vail – a challenging section of roadway that features sharp curves, steep hills and hazardous weather conditions. This project encompassed the installation and testing of hundreds of V2X road-side units and V2X vehicle onboard units; it also established a Network Operations Center to manage the system with CIRRUS by Panasonic.
Similarly, the Utah Department of Transportation announced recently that it is partnering with Panasonic to develop the nation’s most advanced transportation data network – a decision based in part on the success of its own connected vehicle pilot programs. Through these pilot programs, in which V2X technology was installed to facilitate communication between traffic lights and state vehicles, UDOT was able to reduce time spent by buses and snowplows at traffic lights, leading to safer, less congested roads and more efficient public transit.
With The Ray and GDOT aligned in their vision of reducing traffic fatalities, they chose Panasonic as their private-sector partner to provide the expertise and technology to achieve their goal. As a leader in the connected vehicle technology space, Panasonic is delivering a solution to meet the needs of the pilot program, with the potential of eventually expanding throughout Georgia.
And therein lies the beauty of the public-private-philanthropic partnership. When government agencies, nonprofit organizations and technology companies collaborate, each entity brings its own unique strengths, ideas and resources to more effectively achieve shared goals. In this case, by working together towards a common vision of safer, more efficient roadways, The Ray, Panasonic and GDOT will be able to deploy a pilot program that promises to be a game-changer for Georgia drivers.