US Department of Transportation to test drive 2,800 communicating vehicles to prevent crashes

23 Aug 2012

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has just begun a year-long trial of connected vehicles on the roads of Ann Arbor, Michigan, to test how effective this new technology can be in avoiding crashes and accidents.

Nearly 500 trucks and buses have been equipped with technology that lets them communicate with each other and alert drivers to potential dangers ahead. Using Wi-Fi-like signals, data can be transferred from one vehicle to another and between vehicles and parts of the city’s infrastructure, such as traffic lights.

The system can then alert drivers of certain risky situations, such as when a vehicle is changing lanes in the driver’s blind spot, if the car in front has braked suddenly, or if another vehicle is approaching at a crossing where the view is restricted.

DOT NHTSA  connected vehicle road test

Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen have all supplied vehicles for the trial and it is the aim of the DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to have about 2,800 vehicles fitted out by October.

It is though that this technology could avoid or reduce the severity of 80pc of unimpaired vehicle crashes. However, this level of success would require all vehicles to be fitted with the technology.

“Vehicle-to-vehicle communication has the potential to be the ultimate game-changer in roadway safety – but we need to understand how to apply the technology in an effective way in the real world,” said NHTSA administrator David Strickland. “NHTSA will use the valuable data from the model deployment as it decides if and when these connected vehicle safety technologies should be incorporated into the fleet.”

DOT NHTSA connected vehicle road test

Data gathered from the road test will be used by the NHTSA to determine by 2013 whether to proceed with additional activities involving connected vehicle technology, including possible legislation. Anonymous data from the project will also be opened up for use in a myriad of new safety, mobility and environmental applications.

Images via the US Department of Transportation

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.