IBM tech could smooth traffic woes

Submitted by New Jersey Motor Vehicle Accident Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

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webkey_IBM_in_the_newsTravelers on the major New Jersey turnpikes might have a smoother ride this Memorial Day weekend, thanks to some IBM technology.

Over the past four years, the Armonk-headquartered tech giant has worked with the New Jersey Turnpike Authority on a smart traffic management system for two of the nation’s busiest toll roads, the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway.

The IBM-designed system, which became fully operational last month, makes it easier for controllers to keep drivers informed about traffic and accidents. That’s important because it prevents backups and secondary accidents caused by stalled traffic.

“It gets information to people very, very quickly,” said New Jersey Turnpike Authority chief information officer Barry Pelletteri. “And on a high-speed roadway, the faster we do that, the better the potential that people slow down and we don’t have that unfortunate secondary (incident), which can be very serious.”

An accident on the New Jersey Turnpike in June 2014 involving a bus carrying actor Tracy Morgan resulted in the death of comic James McNair and injuries to Morgan. A Walmart truck hit the bus in slowed traffic on the highway.

If controllers can more quickly slow traffic five and 10 miles upstream from a slowdown or a traffic accident, other drivers “are not going to reach that, and it gives first responders time to clear the incident before the backups occur,” said IBM’s Rich Teitelbaum, the firm’s senior state executive for the New Jersey government.

In the past, those controllers had to manipulate different systems to control nearly 1,000 signs — of different vintages — along the highways. “One of the important parts is that the design is resilient,” Pelletteri said. “The sign technology that has been used here, some of it is 40 years old, some of it is 10 years old and some of it was invented just a year ago and it’s out on the roadway.”

And when controllers see a problem brewing, they can direct the system to post a message on the signs — they are two to four miles apart on the roadways — and the smart network will automatically reduce the speed limit posted on the digital signs. “The operators don’t have to change both; they change in concert all the time now,” Pelletteri said.

The New Jersey program, which can serve as a solution for other traffic, continues to evolve. Data from more than 3,000 sensors embedded in the roads — the sensors track cars, speed and vehicle occupancy — will be integrated into the system’s information pipeline.

“This technology platform, which will enable traffic prediction analytics, is the most advanced of its kind in the country,” Teitelbaum said.

Information could eventually flow from the highway into vehicle information systems and personal devices to keep drivers and passengers better informed. “It’s a holistic approach, not a silos approach,” Teitelbaum said.

Originally published here by Mike Snider of the Poughkeepsie Journal. Twitter: @MikeSnider

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Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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