DOT Begins Largest-Ever Road Test of Connected Vehicles

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U.S. Department of Transportation

The Department of Transportation began the largest ever test of crash avoidance technology today, as nearly 3,000 cars took to the streets of Ann Arbor, Mich. The project is part of the group’s year-long Safety Pilot study that tests cars, trucks, and buses equipped with “connected” Wi-Fi technology. The technology allows the vehicles and infrastructure to communicate as part of new crash avoidance system.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood joined elected officials and industry and community members on the University of Michigan campus to begin the second phase of the Safety Pilot test. La Hood commented that the day was a big moment for automotive safety, and that the technology offered real promise for improving the safety and efficiency of America’s roads.

The research is being conducted by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI). The road tests being conducted are the first ever for connected vehicle technology being used in real world driving conditions. All of the vehicles participating in the test have mostly been supplied by volunteer participants. The cars are then equipped with what UMTRI calls vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication devices. The devices gather extensive data about operability and how effectively it reduces accidents. According to the DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA), V2V technology could help reduce the severity of four out of five unimpaired vehicle crashes. Both groups hope that the tests will further back the claims.

During the test, participating vehicles send and receive electronic data messages with other equipped vehicles. The devices then translate the data received, and create a warning to the driver during specific hazardous traffic scenarios. The systems can detect hazards that include an impending collision at a blind intersection, a vehicle changing lanes in another vehicle’s blind spot, or a rear collision with a vehicle stopped ahead, among others.

Today’s model deployment test is the second phase of the DOT’s connected vehicle Safety Pilot program. Earlier this year, the DOT released data from a series of driver acceptance clinics, where volunteer drivers were able to get behind the wheel of vehicles equipped with V2V technology. The study showed that 90% of drivers who experienced V2V technology had highly favorable opinions about the system’s benefits and would like to have the same systems on their own personal vehicles.

The information collected during both phases of the Safety Pilot testing will be taken into account by the NHTSA to determine whether or not to proceed with further involvement in connected vehicle technology, including the possibility of rulemaking.

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