These days, more and more people are making the move to “Colorful Colorado.” With its rising economy, enticing job opportunities and high quality of life, it’s no wonder the population has grown 50% in the last two decades – and it's projected to hike up by half again in the coming two decades. Certainly, part of Colorado’s attraction is its more-the-merrier outlook, but such rapid growth is not possible without growing pains, especially on its highways and roads.
Typically, more people equals more cars and traffic. Factor in aging roads, some of the country’s worst metro congestion, and a staggering amount of snowfall in its ski towns, and it’s clear that Colorado’s future faces major mobility challenges.
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) needed a bold solution. Fast.
According to state figures, in 2018, 577 people died in traffic-related crashes in Colorado and many more were seriously injured. The state spends more than $13 billion annually in roadway crash costs. It all adds up to time, money and immeasurable heartache.
CDOT knows that widening roadways and adding lanes is expensive, and that building more roads won’t easily solve its problems. The agency wanted to tackle Colorado’s traffic and transport challenges in a smarter way, and sought a forward thinking-approach to make driving easier and safer.
Colorado’s rapid population growth – up 50% in the last 20 years – means more drivers and congestion on its already burdened roads. The state spends over $13 billion in roadway crash costs annually, and in 2018, 577 people died in traffic-related crashes. The Colorado Department of Transportation knew fixing and building more roads wouldn’t solve the safety challenges. CDOT needed a smart traffic and transport solution now, not ten years down the road – a bold and technology-driven approach with the potential to make driving easier and safer while moving Colorado forward.
To meet its goal of technology-enabled congestion relief and safety improvements, CDOT partnered with Panasonic, a leader in smart city initiatives, to create an intelligent roadway ecosystem that collects travel data from cars and other sources and communicates that information to vehicles and external systems. The first production-grade V2X system of its kind in the U.S., CIRRUS by Panasonic allows roadway operators to monitor real-time traffic and share critical safety information on highway conditions, congestion, crashes and other driving hazards.
Deployment is underway along a 90-mile stretch of I-70 in Colorado, connecting Denver to Vail, where travelers must navigate sharp curves, steep roads, frequent snowfall and congestion. Soon, an additional 500 miles will be added as CDOT works to achieve wide scale deployment of connected vehicle technology. CIRRUS by Panasonic will enable CDOT to collect and manage the flood of valuable data that connected vehicles will generate. CDOT estimates that connected vehicle technology can cut journey times in half, significantly reduce non-impaired traffic crashes, and increase roadway efficiency as much as 400% - without the expense of widening roadways and adding lanes.
A technology-driven approach to transportation progress
To tackle its transportation issues, CDOT launched its RoadX program, inviting technology leaders in private industry to develop next-gen solutions that could transform Colorado’s aging roadways, shortening commutes and increasing safety. Panasonic emerged as a capable partner, having already demonstrated its leadership in smart city mobility, energy and connected technologies at its CityNow Hub at Peña Station NEXT in Denver.
"Panasonic is a worldwide organization that has shown a significant commitment to innovation and improving people's everyday lives," said former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. "We are thrilled that they have chosen to partner with Colorado in bringing advanced technologies and strategies for smart transportation and smart cities. Not only does that position Colorado as one of the leading states in harnessing tomorrow's smart technology today, but it accelerates the benefits of such innovations to the residents and travelers of our state."
Collaborating closely, CDOT and Panasonic set out to build a connected vehicle ecosystem, one where cars communicate with each other and the roads around them, utilizing IoT and V2X technology to drive a revolution in travel safety and efficiency. Panasonic’s focus? Delivering a production-grade deployment to Colorado roadways and a connected traffic management center platform for V2X technology. The 5-year, multi-million-dollar project continues to be rolled out in a phased approach, enabling CDOT to deploy these technologies at scale.
The resulting solution – CIRRUS by Panasonic – is projected to result in a considerable decrease in unimpaired multi-vehicle crashes, as well as more reliable travel times and, eventually, the ability to communicate with self-driving cars.
Safer roadways today and tomorrow
This year, deployment will be completed across 90 miles of a treacherous stretch of roadway connecting the state capital, Denver, to the ski slopes of Vail, along Interstate 70. There, travelers must navigate sharp curves, steep hills, and nasty weather in addition to traffic delays. CDOT and Panasonic will complete the installation and testing of 100 V2X roadside units and 500 V2X vehicle onboard units, and they have established a Network Operations Center to manage the overall system using CIRRUS by Panasonic. Next, more vehicles will be equipped and 2,500 connected vehicles will travel this “Smart70” corridor, sending out data, 10 times a second, which the roadside units ingest into the data ecosystem.
Early results of the scaled partnership have helped CDOT receive additional federal funding to extend the V2X solution to another nearly 500 miles of roadway.
Real-time traffic management and response
CIRRUS by Panasonic allows CDOT to monitor real-time traffic and share critical safety information on highway conditions, congestion, crashes and other driving hazards directly with vehicles and people. Imagine driving along a mountain highway when a crash occurs 1,000 feet down the road, around a blind turn. V2X enables your vehicles to warn you, or even react on your behalf, to prevent you from becoming a part of the incident even before the compromised vehicle is visible. This technology also means that emergency services can be deployed more promptly, and more cost-effectively, than ever before.
On the I-70 Mountain Corridor, Colorado roadway operators can use the data collected by the intelligent transportation platform to make up-to-the-minute decisions such as deploying snowplows during winter storms or alerting drivers of icy roads, obstructions or delays. CIRRUS by Panasonic gives DOTs an open system with tools that control traffic management, data analytics, roadway technical services, camera management, weather data and much, much more – all from a single dashboard with an open-development environment to capture the long tail of innovation.
Congestion free, crash free and injury free
Leveraging CIRRUS by Panasonic, Colorado’s transportation department is looking to cut journey times in half and reduce non-impaired traffic crashes by 80 percent. CDOT estimates as much as a 400% increase in roadway efficiency with wide-scale deployment of connected vehicle technology – without the expense of widening roadways and adding lanes.
“Our goal is to make Colorado congestion free, crash free, and injury free – and one of the most technologically advanced states in the country,” said CDOT's Chief of Advanced Mobility, Amy Ford.