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Spring 2011 | Vol. 13 | No. 1
Connected Vehicles: The Future of Transportation Safety
By 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:
- Blind Spot Warnings, which warn a driver when they try to change lanes if there is a car in the blind spot.
- Forward Collision Warnings, which alert and then warn a driver of the need to brake when a vehicle ahead of them is stopped, applying their brakes, or traveling more slowly.
- Electronic Emergency Brake Lights, which notify a driver when a vehicle ahead of them is braking hard.
- Intersection Movement Assist, which warns the driver when it is not safe to enter an intersection, for example, when something is blocking a driver’s view of opposing traffic.
- Do Not Pass Warnings, which warn drivers if they attempt to change lanes and pass when there is a vehicle in the opposing lane within the passing zone.
- Control Loss Warnings, which warns drivers when they are about to lose control of the vehicle.
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.