City of Detroit Makes Travel Safer and More Efficient Using AWS-Based Alerting Solution


The City of Detroit uses AWS to resolve traffic problems in less than 2 hours instead of 8 hours, reduce travel times by 30 percent, and improve emergency response times by 20 percent. Detroit, the largest and most populous city in Michigan, has more than 670,000 residents. The city implemented a remote traffic management system based on Miovision TrafficLink, which runs on Amazon EC2.

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The real-time alerts from the Miovision solution on AWS help us immediately see if traffic signals are off or flashing because of a power outage or other technical problem. We no longer have to wait for a citizen or police officer to call us.”

Tony Geara
Intelligent Transportation Systems and Traffic Engineer, City of Detroit

Seeking to Improve Traffic Management and Safety

Nicknamed the “Motor City,” Detroit, Michigan, has more than 800 traffic signals and 2,500 miles of roadway. This infrastructure is managed and maintained by the City of Detroit’s Department of Public Works 50-person operations team, which struggled to effectively manage traffic throughout the city because of aging technology and a lack of funding. “We didn’t have modern monitoring tools, so we didn’t always know when traffic signals were flashing or even completely off,” says Sunny Jacob, head transportation engineer for the City of Detroit. “That caused traffic congestion and potentially dangerous traffic conditions, and it meant we couldn’t quickly respond to and fix traffic signal outages. By the time we were notified of a problem and sent someone out to that intersection, it could take up to 8 hours to resolve the situation.”

Additionally, the city’s operations team needed to better mitigate safety risks on roadways and improve emergency response times. “Because of our inability to gain real-time notifications of intersection problems, we became increasingly concerned about possible collisions and whether emergency vehicles would be able to get through during power outages,” says Jacob.

Deploying a Remote Traffic Management System on AWS

The City of Detroit overcame its challenges by implementing a remote traffic management system based on TrafficLink, an intelligent Amazon Web Services (AWS)–based transportation system platform from technology company Miovision. TrafficLink, which runs on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances, adds connectivity and video-capture capabilities to Detroit’s existing traffic signal solution. The solution uses AWS IoT as the primary interface between in-field hardware devices and the overall AWS environment.

Intersection data, including telemetry, detection, and multimodal counts, are brokered via AWS IoT to other data processing and storage pipelines. For example, alerts are triggered based on intersection data that is processed directly from AWS IoT through Amazon Kinesis and AWS Lambda functions. Telemetry data is likewise processed through AWS Lambda and Amazon Kinesis, and is ultimately stored in Amazon DynamoDB and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3). Live streaming from the hardware devices is built on Amazon Kinesis Video Streams. Additional pipelines make use of Amazon Kinesis Data Firehose and Amazon S3 or Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) for data storage.

Relying on these technologies, the operations team can easily monitor each intersection and make data-driven decisions to improve traffic. TrafficLink relies on Amazon Simple Notification Service (Amazon SNS) to alert engineers via email or SMS about signal problems, such as light outages, signal timing issues, or signal failures. Traffic engineers can also use Miovision Traffic Insights, a web-based analytics suite, to evaluate signals based on real-time data.

The city deployed the remote traffic management system at 450 intersections and recently added advanced analytics capabilities to 30 percent of those intersections. “Using advanced analytics, we can collect real-time traffic and signal data to get better insight into signal timing, system health checks, and camera detection effectiveness,” says Tony Geara, intelligent transportation systems and traffic engineer for the City of Detroit.

Resolving Traffic Problems in Less Than 2 Hours Instead of 8 Hours

Using its remote traffic management system, the City of Detroit gets instant text alerts when there are traffic issues. “The real-time alerts from the Miovision solution on AWS help us immediately see if traffic signals are off or flashing because of a power outage or other technical problem. We no longer have to wait for a citizen or police officer to call us before we can send employees out to the intersection to evaluate the problem. We can manage it all remotely,” Geara says. “As a result, our turnaround time for resolving issues is less than 2 hours. Before we had this system installed, it used to take us up to 8 hours.”

Additionally, the City of Detroit is lowering its maintenance costs by 20 percent because it no longer has to dispatch personnel to check on the status of traffic signals. Previously, the city had an extensive third-party maintenance contract. Now, the City of Detroit can focus internal resources where they’re most needed by taking advantage of connected traffic signals.

Reducing Travel Times by 30%

The City of Detroit uses analytical data from the Miovision solution to count vehicle traffic and pedestrian volume. This data is used to optimize specific traffic corridors and recognize the impact of road closures. “Using this data, we can understand where we can improve signal timing, which helps us enable better traffic flow,” says Geara. This has resulted, for example, in a 30 percent reduction in travel times at one major intersection, according to data collected by the operations team. An annual congestion cost of $3 billion could be mitigated, resulting in a $1 billion savings to the city and its residents.

Improving Emergency Response Times by 20%

The city’s operations team is also using its remote traffic management system on AWS to help other departments. For instance, Detroit Public Safety used TrafficLink to integrate existing tracking units in dozens of emergency vehicles with traffic lights to ensure that signals were pre-empted for emergency vehicles, giving them a green light en route. During testing, this improved emergency response times by almost 20 percent. “Improving safety is one of the main goals of this project, and this solution helps us to achieve that,” says Jacob.

The city will expand its use of TrafficLink. “We are adding this solution at more intersections, and we eventually plan to have it deployed at all intersections,” Jacob says. “By rolling this out citywide, we will keep improving traffic and safety on Detroit’s roads.”

About the City of Detroit

Detroit is the largest and most populous city in Michigan, sprawling across more than 142 square miles. Founded in 1701, the city has more than 670,000 residents.

Benefits of AWS

• Resolves traffic problems in less than 2 hours instead of 8 hours
• Reduces travel times by 30%
• Improves emergency response times by 20%
• Lowers maintenance costs by 20%
• Saves time for operations team


AWS Services Used

Amazon EC2

Amazon EC2 is a web service that provides secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud. It is designed to make web-scale cloud computing easier for developers. Amazon EC2’s simple web service interface allows you to obtain and configure capacity with minimal friction. It provides you with complete control of your computing resources and lets you run on Amazon’s proven computing environment.

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AWS has broad and deep IoT services, from the edge to the cloud. AWS IoT is the only cloud vendor to bring together data management and rich analytics in easy to use services designed for noisy IoT data.

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Amazon S3

Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is an object storage service that offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance. This means customers of all sizes and industries can use it to store and protect any amount of data for a range of use cases, such as websites, mobile applications, backup and restore, archive, enterprise applications, IoT devices, and big data analytics.

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Amazon RDS

Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) makes it easy to set up, operate, and scale a relational database in the cloud. It provides cost-efficient and resizable capacity while automating time-consuming administration tasks such as hardware provisioning, database setup, patching and backups. It frees you to focus on your applications so you can give them the fast performance, high availability, security and compatibility they need.

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