I’ve mentioned here a couple of experiments aimed at evaluating the feasibility and utility of more automated control systems for automobiles. Google has been testing its self-driving car technology for a while now. A European Commission research project called SARTRE has tested technology for “road trains”: groups of cars traveling together, with a leading vehicle being driven a selected driver, and the other cars following in an orderly fashion.
An article in Technology Review reports that a new project, being conducted at the University of Michigan, with funding from the US Department of Transportation [DOT], will test communications systems designed to let cars “talk” to each other, as well as to traffic control equipment.
Last month, the DOT awarded $14.9 million to the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute to test the technology, known as vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication. The system to be tested relies on dedicated short-range radio communication to allow cars to signal one another and receive messages from traffic equipment.
The system being tested will use GPS devices to get speed and position information for each vehicle; this data can be shared with other vehicles and traffic control equipment to enhance safety. For example, a driver approaching a blind intersection might get a warning that another car on the cross street is approaching the intersection at high speed. The driving portion of the test is slated to run for a year, and to involve about 3,000 vehicles. Automakers participating in the project will provide 64 new vehicles outfitted with the communications systems; existing cars fitted with the new system will comprise the rest.
If the system proves successful in the test, it has the potential to significantly improve road safety. The DOT estimates that something like 80% of serious crashes might be avoided or mitigated by using this technology.