Talking Traffic

Talking cars of the future – today!

On the Highways:

Happy Highways

Accidents not waiting to happen 0n the highway

In the city:Talking Traffic

This illustration is interesting in that there are no people outside of the vehicles; were they vaporized by the technology?  Also absent are any road markings or infrastructure for bicycles.

Notice the crosswalk on the left (in front of the “safety island”) worn almost to oblivion from the motorized traffic? On the right it appears that there is no crosswalk for pedestrians due to the absence of walkway stripping, meaning that pedestrians get to cross the adjacent street twice (or 3 light cycles).

You might think for $25 million we would be treated to better visuals extolling the virtues of a future vision of talking pavement and cars talking to each other to avoid hitting each other or the pavement or other motorized infrastructure. Is this the US DOT ideal version of Complete Streets?

What are talking cars?

The short hand is V2V for vehicle to vehicle, and V2I for vehicle to infrastructure wireless communications. The Department of Transportation recently completed a pilot study from August 2011 with wireless equipped vehicles and is expanding the study in a year long effort to identify and resolve challenges and issues with the new tech. Ultimately the goal is increased roadway safety.

From the DOT fact-sheet, “Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for ages 3 through 34, according to the Centers for Disease Control”. Building on the initial study of around 300 cars, the DOT formed a joint project with the University of Michigan with 2,800 vehicles, and is part of a $25 million federal effort to reduce motor vehicle crashes. The sample size is about the minimum needed to statistically quantify results from the study, and some might argue that it should be larger.

How do they work?

From the fact sheet, ” Safety-related systems for connected vehicle technology will likely be based on Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC), a technology similar to WiFi. DSRC is fast, secure, reliable and operates on a dedicated spectrum. Non-safety applications may be based on different types of wireless technology. Cars, trucks, buses, and other vehicles will be able to “talk” to each other with in-vehicle or after market devices that continuously share important safety and mobility information with each other. Connected vehicles can also use wireless communication to “talk” to traffic signals, work zones, toll booths, school zones, and other types of infrastructure. The vehicle information communicated is anonymous, so vehicles cannot be tracked and the system is secure against tampering.”

Wireless communication devices that audibly and visually alert drivers when safety threats approach are installed in volunteer vehicles and dozens of local roadside and intersection locations.

This pilot offers researchers opportunities to understand how effective visual and audio safety warnings are and the reliability of the various wireless technology devices. Systems will be researched and their use refined, and data on prevention and vehicle communications will be presented to the U.S. Department of Transportation in the fall of 2013.

The DOT plans to work with researchers and industry leaders to see if a possible mandate requiring vehicle-to-vehicle communication is feasible, in terms of both technology and cost.

Secretary Ray LaHood said, “No decision has been made about making a rule; we are announcing a research project that will deliver data… and then we’ll see where it takes us.” See more about the talking cars project here. The test will be conducted in Michigan so don’t expect talking cars and streets here before 2014 unless you happen to be standing next to one of the new security light poles with their cameras, microphone, and loudspeaker.

According to the DOT, this technology has the potential to reduce or prevent 80% of all crash scenarios involving non-impaired drivers and that’s good. Will the technology interfere with pacemakers, gps devices, wireless speedometers, and satellite? These are just a few of many issues to be worked out over the next 12 months.

Will future bicycles be equipped with transponders or wireless beacons to alert motor vehicles so they can be seen and talked about?