Kansas City, Missouri, is already a leader in the smart city race—remember its public data dashboard that helps drivers find parking spots? But a new startup, Integrated Roadways, will soon add another feather to KC’s tech-city cap. The company is piloting a project to embed sensors in city roads along with phone lines and fiber optic internet cable.
The sensors will collect data about road use, speeds, and vehicle weight—giving the city information that can be used to better deploy maintenance efforts and shape transportation policy. The road-embedded tech also has potential for future applications, assisting with the navigation, communication, and power of self-driving cars. Additionally, the new roads include channels for telecom and connectivity companies to run 5G networks or high-speed internet.
That’s an important piece of the puzzle, since Integrated Roadways’ business plan hinges on the idea that car companies and communication companies will find the street’s high-tech amenities so valuable that they’ll pay for them—freeing up the city’s transportation budget for road maintenance.
“Right now we estimate it, we can send people out to track it, and we can send people out if there’s a problem … but (it would be different) to now be able to give you a precise number and a trend analysis to figure out how we can get traffic off that road, ways to incentivize mass transit, ways to engage the public to mitigate that mass transit issue,” said Kansas City’s chief innovation officer, Bob Bennett.