Director's Message

FALL 2013 -- This fall’s message focuses on the theme of Smart Cities, one of the new strategic directions in both the Civil and Environmental Engineering and the City and Regional Planning departments at UC Berkeley. During a joint full-day retreat last fall, both departments identified this theme as a major new opportunity and challenge for research in the field of transportation.

What are “Smart Cities?” By this we mean urban environments that take full advantage of the wealth of new data provided by new mobile sensors, such as smartphones equipped with GPS. By extracting useful information from the wealth of data these sensors provide, researchers have the potential to greatly influence how cities and regions plan, manage and operate transportation systems. An early example of such research at ITS Berkeley includes Mobile Century, a real-world experiment, which demonstrated that accurate information on travel times on freeways could be derived from even small samples of GPS-equipped phones.  This success led to the development of a larger scale experimental deployment of these technologies and algorithms in an extension of this research known as Mobile Millennnium.

Other research on the use of smartphones has provided information to urban commuters regarding the health and environmental effects of various mode choices.  More recently, three of our graduate students and recent graduates have made use of a creative application of communication technologies to help solve the perennial problem of bus bunching on public transportation routes.

Inspired by these and other early successes at UC Berkeley and other universities, two young professors were recruited under the theme of Smart Cities at UC Berkeley: Alexey Pozdnukhov and Scott Moura.  Both are promising additions to the ITS Berkeley community.

Alexey Pozdnukhov specializes in the analysis of data about human behavior in cities, using large datasets acquired from cell phones and social networking sites. Dr. Pozdnukhov seeks to reveal how citizens behave in cities using big data sources, and to use resulting insights to enhance the planning and delivery of services.

Scott Moura’s research focuses on control and estimation algorithms for mobility and energy applied to smart cities. These algorithms have important implications for use by plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV). At Berkeley, Dr. Moura plans to create a research group called the “Control and Automation Laboratory (CAL) for City Systems.” His addition to our community is expected to provide a boost to our research in the area of adoption of electric vehicles, which has grown significantly at our Transportation Sustainability Research Center.

Another positive recent development is that we were awarded the Region 9 University Transportation Center by USDOT.  The title of this new center is UC Center on Economic Competitiveness in Transportation, or UCConECT.  The UC Berkeley-led team also includes UC Irvine, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara and UC Riverside.  The Director of UCConECT is Professor Michael Cassidy, of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department.  UCConECT is the successor to our long-standing University of California Transportation Center, which will be winding down its activities over the next year.

The fall semester is also our opportunity to welcome a new class of graduate students in Transportation Engineering and Planning.  Their enthusiasm gives us much to look forward to in the new academic year!

Samer Madanat