The U.S. Department of Transportation has launched an aggressive connected-vehicle program to reduce vehicle crashes through vehicle-to-vehicle communication. Expanding that program to include communication to the transportation infrastructure and communication to other users (bicycles and pedestrians) can greatly increase the safety of the transportation system.
TTI has been a leader in researching design and deployment of transportation infrastructure and roadside safety hardware. TTI’s Connected Transportation Initiative will allow researchers to examine how signs, pavement markings, traffic signals and roadside hardware all interact with vehicles, bicycles and users of the transportation system. No single organization has yet emerged as a thought leader for this connected-infrastructure aspect, and TTI has the opportunity to create that thought-leading approach.
Automated vehicles are evolving and may become a technical reality sooner than most people realize. This revolutionary application of technologies could result in a variety of transformative changes to our entire society. The resulting impacts could include improved safety, reduced congestion, fewer negative environmental impacts, increased mobility and many others.
TTI’s vision of an automated-vehicle environment can achieve greater effectiveness by using information from both connected vehicles and intelligent infrastructure. However, a great deal of research will be needed to answer questions about the deployment and operation of these vehicles. No one is currently focused on the role of the infrastructure in enabling or encouraging deployment, and TTI has an opportunity to be a thought leader in this area as well.
Roadway infrastructure encompasses pavements, bridges, signs, pavement markings, roadside safety devices and essentially any asset owned and maintained by a transportation owner. Adding intelligence to this infrastructure means including connectivity so that these assets can self-report their condition and status and be more proactively managed and maintained. This, in essence, is extending the “Internet of Things” concept where infrastructure, or ‘things’, contain embedded electronics and connectivity options to promote greater value and service capabilities. In this transportation arena, this concept has been applied largely to the vehicle or specific devices used in Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). However, states like Texas have millions of pieces of infrastructure assets across the state, encompassing vehicles, roadways, roadside devices and ITS devices. The vast majority of this huge investment has no connectivity and provides no effective means for knowing the situational awareness of these assets. However, by adding this intelligence, infrastructure can work with vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians to create a connected and automated transportation environment.
The key to making this future vision work is creating a transportation future that is safe and secure for the user. Research is needed to understand how users can and will process the vast amount of new information. At the same time, researchers need to find and test ways technology can be used to prioritize, filter and present information to make transportation mobility safer and more accessible. Research and testing are needed across the entire user population. TTI’s human factors focus within the Connected Transportation Initiative will help establish TTI as a leader in incorporating human factors into future transportation solutions, such as infrastructure- and vehicle-based sign research (i.e., vehicle to vehicle, vehicle to infrastructure, and vehicle to user).
The transportation revolution is on its way. In fact, it’s already here. Partially automated vehicles are on the nation’s roadways right now, and connected vehicles are just around the corner. Standards and polices are evolving as well. But linking both normal and automated vehicles into the connected vehicle system — and, in turn, to the roadway infrastructure — is a challenge. In order for public policy to advance hand-in-glove with developing technologies, policy makers must first be aware of how these technologies could change the nature of the transportation system.