Transport trucks are seen driving down a city road.

Wayne Hiebert / Ottawa Citizen
The city is managing a pilot project that will allow freight trucks to communicate with traffic signals on a stretch of Hunt Club Road. All three levels of government are interested to see if fuel emissions could be cut if drivers know when the lights are changing.

A research study in Ottawa will involve beaming traffic light information to transport truck drivers so they know when the signals will change.

The idea is to keep freight trucks moving along the high-travelled roads in an effort to save gas and cut back on fuel emissions.

All three levels of government have an interest in the pilot project, which will see the city award a contract to a firm that has the technology and a partner freight company.

The city plans to test the technology on the five-kilometres of Hunt Club Road between Merivale Road and Uplands Drive.

Greg Kent, the city’s manager of traffic management, said the Ontario Ministry of Transportation was looking for somewhere to test the technology and Ottawa raised its hand.

“The objective of this research is to assess the city’s traffic signal system connectivity capability with goods movement vehicles in an urban environment to see if we can communicate,” Kent said.

The study will also help governments decide if the technology is useful.

Kent said the feds are contributing $150,000 and MTO is providing $75,000. The city is providing staffing resources to lead the project and providing the traffic infrastructure.

The study comes at a good time since the city has been keen on embracing programs that feed connected and autonomous driving research. Mayor Jim Watson is planning a trip to Queen’s Park with local tech magnate Terry Matthews to talk up Ottawa’s tech scene.

The city offered Hunt Club Road for the pilot project because the signals have the appropriate technology and it sees a sizeable amount of truck and delivery activity.

Carleton University’s engineering department will be the independent evaluator, since the city doesn’t want the winning firm to assess how the technology is working.

In a simple example of how the technology works, a truck might be driving on Hunt Club Road and the driver could learn when the signals are going to change to avoid stopping and restarting.

“The system will be developed such that it knows where the vehicle is along the corridor,” Kent said. “It will identify it’s coming up to a signal. It will request that information and then our signal systems, through an appropriate secure environment, will push the information back to the vehicle driver. The vehicle driver will then have that information to decide how to drive.”

Starting up from a stopped position takes more energy for a large truck, which can result in more emissions. Drivers can adjust their speeds knowing when a light will change. If the light will be changing green, the driver can be prepared to keep moving with the flow of traffic.

“Any information that the driver has could improve that driving ability,” Kent said.

Kent said the focus of the research will be on the economic and environmental benefits of the technology, with some consideration of how it might help road safety.

The city wants to award the contract by the end of March and start trial runs in the fall. Experts at Carleton should have a report ready in early 2018, Kent said.

Source: Ottawa Citizen