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Smart cities 13/10/2020

All Hail, Smart Taxis!

As smart cities become smarter, there is no one definition of what should count as a truly intelligent urban technology. It could, for example, be a solution that reduces environmental impact or increases mobility, or one that improves digital modeling or connectivity.

And once in a while, there’s that one innovation that manages to do all those things at once. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) are collaborating with the cities of Shenzhen and Tianjin to turn taxis into a low-cost mobile sensing platform which will at once sap emissions, increase mobility and provide real-time urban data. Here’s how:

  • Placing sensors throughout a large city to monitor traffic congestion, noise and air pollution would come at a steep price, but turning taxis into mobile data-collectors drastically reduces the cost. In collaboration with Environmental Thinking, the CMU researchers have put sensors on 146 taxis in Shenzhen and 19 in Tianjin. Through these deployments, they report a 40% improvement in sensing coverage quality.
  • To counter the issue of many taxis circulating in the same areas, the team developed an algorithm to optimize data collection routes and provide financial incentives for drivers to travel to less popular areas. Basically, the algorithm calculates the most profitable route but if provided the wrong information, the driver is paid the difference. So far, a 30% increase in ride request matching rates has been reported.
  • In addition to analyzing traffic data, the team has developed a pollution-mapping tool called Atmospheric Monitoring System that tracks information about air pollution in a given place, including weather, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and ozone pollution. The aim is to ultimately help cities better understand the sources of pollution and which policies to implement.

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