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Enhancing Urban Efficiency Through Traffic Engineering Services

Urban mobility is a complex puzzle, with traffic flow, safety, and sustainability at its core. In our bustling cities, where time is of the essence and resources are finite, the role of traffic engineering services becomes increasingly critical. Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with Michael Gaertner, EVP of Technology, and Marc Segal, Product Manager, from Yunex Traffic USA. Their insights shed light on how traffic engineering services are shaping our cities’ future.

Q: I am going to open this question to both of you, as you see technology shift in the world of ITS, what role do you believe intelligent transportation solutions play in shaping the future of our cities? How can these advancements lead us toward safer, greener, and smarter urban mobility?

Marc: Mobility plays a crucial role in our quality of life in urban environments.  If we are fortunate enough to live to 80 years old, we may end up spending the equivalent of 6 months waiting for the traffic light to turn green. Time is our most valuable resource, and it is incredibly important for our traffic engineers to look at technologies and data to make our traffic-light controlled intersections more efficient.  I am so excited to share our advancements with this high-resolution traffic data and what we have been able to accomplish with Yutraffic Insights and learn from other cities who are beginning to utilize these high-resolution signal performance management tools.

Michael: Yes Marc, I agree. And we need to focus on the 4 important areas that can help cities reach these goals. The first being connected vehicles and how ITS enables seamless communication between vehicles and infrastructure, exchanging information in real-time about road conditions, traffic flow, and potential hazards. This connectivity enhances safety by preventing collisions and providing warnings to drivers. Next we must look at reducing emissions. We do this through optimized traffic flows and minimizing idle times. And of course we have to consider the massive amounts of data that is out there to analyze. How do we capture and use this to make more informed decisions? And finally that brings me to cybersecurity. As this industry relies on digital communication, robust cybersecurity measures are crucial.

Q: Michael, your role as EVP of Technology sounds fascinating. Could you share a bit about your background and how you became deeply involved in the ITS industry?

Michael: My background has always been in electrical engineering. I started back with Siemens in 1992 and this is where I started to become really involved in ITS. This field always fascinated me as I was always very intrigued by technology trends and how these can make our lives better, easier, more efficient. I have also been really into protecting our cities through cybersecurity and ITS combines both of these and the work I do affects the people that use our infrastructure directly, every day.

Q: Wow, so with over 30 years in the industry what’s the most exciting technological advancement you’ve witnessed during your career? How has it influenced your work at Yunex Traffic?

Michael: Clearly connected and autonomous driving technology has taken the front runner position with this. This technology will and in many ways already is impacting our daily life. CV2X will help to increase safety and will make transportation more efficient. I am proud to have worked on and represent some of this technology and the advancement in the infrastructure side.

Q: And Marc, as a traffic engineer, this question is to you. What’s one project you’ve worked on that truly ignited your passion? How did it impact the community or city it served?

Marc: Earth month is a great reminder that engineers need to work alongside mother nature to build lasting infrastructure projects. I was honored to help certify one of the largest roadway projects in Texas as a sustainable roadway, which was open to traffic in 2020. This allowed me to explore emerging concepts like “climate change vulnerability” and allowed us to understand more about where our project materials came from and what the net carbon impact our project has on the adjacent area. It is great to work on such a large project that have connected bike infrastructure that traverses across eight bodies of water. Our roadways and transportation network have such a large impact on our natural environment and being able to accurately measure those impacts will allow us to design and build for future generations to come. 

Q: Michael, when you think about the future of mobility, what excites you the most? How do you envision technology shaping our cities and transportation systems?

Michael: Right now, its working with the industry to move towards a SaaS environment. For me, this opens up the doors to create better technology quicker and more efficiently – but maybe most importantly safer. We can test in real world environments all while providing better overall security into the infrastructure.

Q: So as we move into this new era of transportation management, what are some of the biggest challenges you see cities facing?

Marc: Well, I think there are a couple of things we need to think about, one would be public transportation. We need to not just be concerned with travel times, but also the availability and reliability of said public transportation. Beyond that, the biggest issue I see is that there is so much nr new technologies on the market all aimed to make our cities safer, greener, and more efficient. But even with all that technology we need someone to drive it, to make the changes, and to put these systems to work at their full capacity. We are only as good as the tolls we have. So being fully trained and having dedicated time to sit with these tools is imperative.

Q: So Marc, we’ve talked about the future, and the challenges. What expertise does the engineering services group bring help with these issues (like traffic signal optimization)? How can well-timed signals improve overall traffic efficiency and reduce congestion?

Marc: As more technology enters our roadways and our computational intelligence increases, traffic engineering is quickly morphing from purely a civil engineering discipline and is blending more with the fields of computer science and artificial intelligence.  We now have the ability to simulate city networks cost-effectively and utilize these results to improve traffic operations within real time. As a civil engineer who has advanced in my career with the advent of tools like Waze and other crowd-sourced data streams, I have been accustomed to real-time data access. The true benefit of this real-time data comes when entire agencies harness this data and incorporate this in their day-to-day practices. 

Q: And in your experience, how critical is it to regularly assess and adjust signal timings to adapt to changing traffic patterns?

Marc: Traffic is dynamic and is constantly changing. Unless you have an adaptive system it is imperative to look at the data to see how signals can be optimized. Tools like ATSPM such as Yutraffic Insights allow engineers to see changes in split failures and can regularly find ways to improve their intersections. Typically, cities try to time their lights every three years, but we have the ability to make quicker modifications using data driven decision making.

Q: Michael, how do you see engineering services as being a tool to foster collaboration with local communities, businesses, and other stakeholders during traffic management projects? How important is public input in shaping transportation solutions?

Michael: Great question, public input plays a crucial role in shaping transportation solutions, especially during traffic management projects. Many stakeholders need to be involved and coordinated in infrastructure projects, without this, we will not be successful in implement complex ITS Projects and therefore a close collaboration between the local communities, authorities and the industry is necessary. Engineering services can help to represent the traffic in your city digitally and accurately which gives you real world successes to share with community stakeholders, and will help your city see real results.

Q: So how then can engineering services contribute to the overall deployment and maintenance of ITS technologies? What are some key ITS components that enhance traffic management?

Michael: Even the best technology is useless if it doesn’t achieve a tangible improvement, which requires a special focus. Not all agencies have the resources for this kind of focus and that’s where even a few hours of dedicated time can make all the difference.

Marc: As Michael said earlier when traffic can be represented digitally and accurately, it allows complex systems to perform optimization algorithms to maximize the efficiency of our intersections as well as prioritizing safety. Accurate detection and rapid low-latency communication are essential to allow our systems to optimize our transportation networks.

Q: Thank you both for your time. Before we go I have one more question for you Marc, can you tell me a little bit about what sparked your interest in this field, and how your found your way to Yunex Traffic?

Marc: As a kid, I have always had a fascination about our built environment.  My city planning with Legos as a kid quickly morphed into my career as a traffic engineer.  It was not until I lived abroad without a car that I was able to see how our public transportation network and our access to active transportation can really shape our experiences with our city.  I have been lucky to practice as a traffic engineer in Texas and have worked on projects that improve our access for cyclists and pedestrians.  It is great getting to collaborate with traffic engineers across the globe with Yunex Traffic and it is these shared experiences which will help us to deploy more effective and efficient traffic lights to cities across the globe.  We have a ton to learn from our Yunex Traffic engineers across the globe which is one of the benefits of working with a multi-national firm. 

There you have it, straight from the experts at Yunex Traffic. If you are interested in learning how bringing Engineering Services into your transportation plan can help your city reach it’s transportation goals, reach out to us.