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Directions in Highway Safety Cover - Spring 2011 Download Newsletter pdf
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Spring 2011 | Vol. 13 | No. 1

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Connected Vehicles: The Future of Transportation Safety

By Peter Appel

Peter Appel, Administrator, U.S. DOT’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA)

Improving safety and reducing distracted driving are the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (U.S. DOT) top priorities, and I believe that technology is key to helping the U.S. achieve unprecedented levels of safety on our roadways. Connected vehicles, which communicate wirelessly with each other, as well as with traffic signals, toll booths and other infrastructure, will make the 21st century transportation system safer, more efficient and more environmentally friendly.

Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communications systems provide awareness of other, similarly-equipped vehicles within range. This can include cars, buses, trucks and public transit vehicles. Recently a report from NHTSA found that V2V and Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I) technology have the potential to address 81 percent of all vehicle target* crashes. One reason is that nondistracting safety alerts focus a driver’s attention on potential roadway dangers such as cars that brake suddenly, speed limit changes or an approaching emergency vehicle. These alerts will help to create more aware and responsible drivers.

Under a cooperative agreement with a consortium of vehicle manufacturers, U.S. DOT has developed several V2V and V2I safety technologies that include:

These alerts can be communicated to the driver in a number of ways. RITA is conducting research into the human factors associated with wireless connectivity between vehicles and on board safety devices. We want to ensure that these technologies do not contribute to any distracted driving problems.

In addition, V2V and V2I communications over a secure network will generate hundreds of new data sets, which can be used to create a myriad of safety, mobility and environmental applications. Combined, these new services can improve all modes of transportation and make travelling a more pleasant experience. Imagine traffic lights that can make real time decisions that keep traffic flowing or prevent oncoming crashes from happening. What if a specially equipped cell phone could help a blind pedestrian cross a busy intersection safely? We realize the potential of these applications, which is why our Department is insisting that this system be based on open-source standards to ensure unlimited potential for commercial innovation.

I frequently tell stakeholders that the last fifty years of vehicle safety have been focused on surviving crashes; the next fifty will be about avoiding crashes. Connected vehicles will allow our nation to move beyond measures that make crashes less deadly by deploying systems that will help drivers avoid crashes all together. Imagine the impact this technology will have on all of our communities.

*Target crashes exclude drivers with physiological impairments such as intoxication or drowsiness.