WASHINGTON – A traffic safety initiative launched this week (Aug. 21) will equip 3,000 cars, trucks and buses with Wi-Fi connections designed to help vehicles avoid crashes and improve traffic flow, planners said.
The U.S. Transportation Department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said its connected vehicle pilot project will test the ability of vehicles and highway infrastructure to “talk” to each other in real time. The second phase of the mobile Wi-Fi network will be installed in Ann Arbor, Mich., one of several Michigan cities to receive federal funding to develop auto-related technologies.
Federal officials called the connected vehicle program the largest of its kind for improving U.S. traffic safety.
Vehicles will be equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications devices designed under the pilot program to gather data on how the safety network operates while gauging its effectiveness in reducing accidents. NHTSA estimates that vehicle-to-vehicle safety technology could help avoid or reduce the severity of four out of five crashes.
Wi-Fi-enabled vehicles will be able to send and receive messages from similarly equipped vehicles, translate traffic data into warnings about dangerous traffic scenarios like the threat of a collision at a blind intersection or a rear-end collision with a vehicle stopped ahead.
“We need to understand how to apply the technology in an effective way in the real world,” NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said in announcing the pilot program. Data from the pilot program will be used by the agency to determine whether connected vehicle technology should be widely deployed in other fleets.
The Transportation Department has been working with auto manufacturers to find out how wireless technology can be used to allow vehicles to communicate with each other and with the U.S. transportation infrastructure. Planners envision the technology allowing future vehicles to “talk” to traffic signals, work zones, toll booths and other roadway infrastructure.
The connected vehicle technology is based on technology similar to Wi-Fi called Dedicated Short Range Communications. Transportation experts said the technology is relatively fast, secure and nearly invulnerable to interference.
The second phase of the deployment program announced this week will test wireless systems integrated directly into vehicles along with aftermarket safety systems and communications beacons. The devices are designed to emit basic safety messages 10 times per second. The data stream can then be used by other equipped vehicles to spot potential traffic hazards.
Program officials said the results of the connected vehicle pilot program will be used by NHTSA to determine whether to proceed with additional vehicle-to-vehicle communications efforts, including proposed rules on deployment. A decision on whether to expand the program is expected in 2013, transportation officials said.