An intersection in Marysville, Ohio with cars driving through it.

Connected Marysville: Revolutionizing Vehicle Testing

By Barbara Linstrom

In the true spirit of The Beta District, about 16,000 Marysville residents aged 18 and over are being invited to test the latest traffic safety technology and be alerted to road hazards through on-board units (OBUs) on their vehicle dashboards.

The landmark safety study is part of the district’s Connected Marysville project, which is the first fully connected city transportation network in the country. All 32 traffic signals in the city have been upgraded to deliver signal phase, timing data and other safety messages to vehicles with OBUs.

A Real-World Sandbox

Researchers from the public and private sectors, including academia, are able to develop and test the tech throughout the entire city in real-life situations, such as pedestrian crossings, red lights, lane closures and curve speed.

“This tech is laying the groundwork for the future and has the potential to be very transformative,” says Marc Dilsaver, Mobility & Construction Manager for the City of Marysville. “Connected Marysville is being done in the spirit of testing to find out what works, what doesn’t work, and what makes a difference and is sustainable.”

A pilot project being conducted by DriveOhio, the smart mobility arm of the Ohio Department of Transportation, Connected Marysville is conducting connected vehicle (CV) infrastructure research that includes broadband and roadside units, creating the first city-wide deployment of CV technology in the U.S.

Marysville is the perfect playground for testing all aspects of CV technology. Because of the town’s size, tests can be set up quickly and data can be collected in a more time-sensitive and cost-effective manner than larger models.

The Future of Traffic Safety

“There is so much opportunity to learn and innovate. Pilot projects are hugely important stepping stones towards solutions,” said Dilsaver, who serves as the Marysville lead for Connected Marysville and hundreds of OBU deployments on city first responders and public service vehicles as well. “Innovation phases can sometimes make orderly engineers uncomfortable, but they are necessary to attain standardization.”

Dilsaver envisions a future where a city won’t need to maintain infrastructure, i.e., roadside units, for connected vehicles to work. He also foresees a time when personalized alerts will be delivered through ways that cars are manufactured and connected to multiple data points through the cloud or public networks.

“This tech is going to let us move the needle on cutting down the thousands of deaths due to crashes every year,” he said. “It is creating a whole new ballgame for traffic safety standards.”

The 18-month live testing began in July with the goal of moving the tech toward its beta phase — or tipping point for success — through the data researchers are gleaning along the way.

With a master's degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, Barbara Linstrom has worked overseas as a journalist, and as a digital media director at a PBS/NPR station in Southwest Florida.