Middlesex County, NJ: A Hub for AV and AI Technology

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, with leading innovations like autonomous technology and the internet of things (IoT), is driving future-forward companies to position themselves for success. Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are enabling public transit operators to modify services and provide real-time information. Commuters can leverage data analytics to locate electric vehicle charging infrastructure, while planners can study near-miss crash situations utilizing high-resolution sensor data. Together, these mobility technologies will transform the way we live, work, and travel.  

In Middlesex County, we are pioneering these next-generation technologies. 

As the head of the Department of Transportation for Middlesex County, I have seen firsthand how the County is well-positioned to enable such strides. Our goal is to become a leader in developing the technologies, products, and services that make the county (and the world) a better, safer, and more connected place for residents and businesses. We are developing the ecosystem that fosters the innovation and collaboration to make this happen.  

In fact, one of my key projects here at the County has been spearheading the creation of Destination 2040 (D2040), a strategic plan for long-term economic success, which specifically includes support for autonomous vehicle technology. Sustainability and better quality of life for our residents are two key focuses of D2040.

Through financial commitments and strategic partnerships, Middlesex County is supporting area businesses, entrepreneurs, and innovators; and attracting next generation leaders to be fully invested in leading locally through the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

BUILDING A STRONG FOUNDATION IN DATACITY

In 2019, in conjunction with Rutgers University, the City of New Brunswick – the seat of Middlesex County – was awarded an Innovation Hub Smart Mobility Testing Ground designation by the NJ Economic Development Authority. Funding for preliminary design and pilot testing was provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation University Transportation Center program at Rutgers’ Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Technology. County, state, and federal government will all support the program’s deployment.

The testing ground is officially named “DataCity, Middlesex County’s Autonomous & Smart Mobility Initiative.” It is a stretch of New Brunswick roadway that will be fully equipped with self-driving-grade roadside sensors and computing IoT devices to continuously collect vehicle, pedestrian, and infrastructure data from this urban corridor. The data will be available to companies nationwide for free. It will also be used for testing technologies for electric vehicle charging and energy harvesting. Once completed in late 2021, DataCity will be the first smart mobility testing corridor with complete end-to-end high-resolution sensor and cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) coverage located in a heavily congested urban environment in the country. It will provide a unique opportunity to study electric, connected, and autonomous vehicle technology. 

An Ideal Intersection for Tech Growth

In Middlesex County, we have a fertile environment for electric, connected, and autonomous vehicle technology and innovation, thanks to three key areas: 

  • Visionary leadership – D2040 utilizes expertise from around the County, including senior leadership from our 25 municipal governments and private partners from within our growing sectors, and will serve as the framework to advance County-wide strategic initiatives, including transportation. To ensure success, we are providing significant financial support and leading the way on the planning, development, and management of this tech-friendly ecosystem.

  • Established players― Argo AI, a company that develops robotics and AI solutions for self-driving vehicles; Veesag, which is innovating connected car solutions; IEEE, the largest professional association for electronic and electrical engineers. These are just a few of the technology companies that call Middlesex home.

  • Deep talent pipeline – We are a hotspot for talent in positions crucial to the autonomous technology industry. We have a deep supply of software developers and software QA analysts and testers.* Rutgers School of Engineering is located in Middlesex County and our award-winning vocational school system offers a pre-engineering program. Our Office of Career Opportunity provides workforce training and recruitment resources to businesses in the County at no cost.

Our commitment to technology and innovation will further enhance our County economy, strengthening the overall resiliency of our businesses, residents, and students. Moreover, a 2020 report by the NJ Advanced Autonomous Vehicle Task Force cited the benefits of autonomous vehicle technology, crediting highly autonomous vehicles (HAVs) with the potential to provide “safety, mobility, efficiency, convenience, economic, and other societal benefits.” HAV technology could improve quality of life in New Jersey by “enabling more efficient use of land, providing enhanced affordable mobility to underserved communities, allowing affordable housing to become affordable living, and creating new job opportunities.” 

The Future is Now

Conveniently located between New York City and Philadelphia, Middlesex County boasts a government-to-business (G2B) model supporting electric, connected, and autonomous vehicle technology.  

In the coming months, our County leadership will deploy the framework to support vehicle-to-infrastructure communication and data collection and sharing through a centralized data collection point.  

We as a County are uniquely positioned to support and enable innovative businesses and entrepreneurs to thrive as we help propel the Fourth Industrial Revolution in New Jersey – and the U.S. This remarkable endeavor will put Middlesex County at the forefront of the nation’s autonomous technology industry, facilitating the collection and dissemination of crucial data for the benefit of society, the environment, and the national economy.

* Source: EMSI

Submitted by Solomon Caviness, Head of the Middlesex County Department of Transportation  

Solomon Caviness, M.S., MBA, has served as the head of the Middlesex County Department of Transportation in Middlesex County, New Jersey since January 2020. He has nearly two decades of experience collaborating with transportation agencies and local governments throughout the tri-state area. As head of the County’s Department of Transportation, Caviness oversees the County’s Offices of Planning, Engineering, and Public Works, as well as the Middlesex County Area Transit Service.  

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