The DOT recently announced that the University of Michigan will conduct a road safety field trial of innovative connected vehicle technology that allows vehicles to “see” and “talk” to each other through wireless communication technology in everyday vehicles in a real-time environment.

"This test will be an important step towards the U.S. Department of Transportation's top priority — a safer transportation system," said Peter Appel, administrator of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration. "Technology is an investment in the future … and will allow us to learn how drivers use electronic alerts to avoid crashes in a real-world environment."

During the pilot, drivers will be alerted to impending dangers in real-time so they can take action to avoid crashes. DOT will collect data from the vehicles in order to understand how different types of motorists respond to safety messages in the real world.

The safety pilot will include the installation of wireless devices in up to 3,000 vehicles — including trucks, cars and buses — in one location to evaluate the effectiveness of connected vehicle technology to prevent crashes. It will take place on the streets and highways of Ann Arbor, MI, from Aug. 2012 to Aug. 2013.

"We envision connected vehicle technology as a platform to save many lives on America's roads, and foster innovations we've yet to imagine — a game-changer for vehicle safety," said National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Administrator David Strickland. "When completed, the pilot will demonstrate first-hand how connected vehicles communicate in the real world, bringing us a step closer to what could be the next major safety breakthrough."

"Safety is our number one priority, and this research could save lives and prevent injuries across America," said Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. "With more than 30,000 people a year killed on our nation's roads, we need to keep looking for new ways to improve safety and reduce fatalities."

The safety pilot is the second part of a two-part Connected Vehicle research initiative. The first part is the Safety Pilot Driver Acceptance Clinics, which began on Aug. 8, 2011. The driver clinics are the first step in identifying how motorists respond to innovative wireless devices for safety. Participants in the six driver acceptance clinics will test cars equipped with connected vehicle devices in a controlled environment where researchers can observe the drivers' responses to the technology. The connected vehicle technology uses dedicated spectrum at 5.9GHz known as Dedicated Short-Range Communication (DSRC).

To continue the data collection under real-world conditions, the safety pilot will allow drivers using cars, trucks, and transit vehicles fitted with wireless devices to carry out their normal routines while their vehicles sense the presence of other equipped vehicles nearby.

The Connected Vehicle Safety Pilot research program was created to collect data in order for NHTSA to make a decision about the use of connected vehicle technology that is based on reliable, scientific information. NHTSA's decision on the future of connected vehicle technology is expected to be made in 2013 for light vehicles and in 2014 for heavy vehicles.

The Technology

The technology used in the pilot is called Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communications (V2V) for Safety — the dynamic wireless exchange of data between nearby vehicles. By exchanging anonymous, vehicle-based data regarding position, speed, and location (at a minimum), V2V communications enables a vehicle to:

• Sense threats and hazards with a 360-degree awareness of the position of other vehicles and the threat or hazard they present
• Calculate risk
• Issue driver advisories or warnings
• Take pre-emptive actions to avoid and mitigate crashes

At the heart of V2V communications is a basic application known as the “Here I Am” data message. This message can be derived using non-vehicle-based technologies such as GPS to identify location and speed of a vehicle, or vehicle-based sensor data wherein the location and speed data is derived from the vehicle’s computer and is combined with other data such as latitude, longitude, or angle to produce a richer, more detailed situational awareness of the position of other vehicles.

The vision for V2V is that eventually, each vehicle on the roadway (inclusive of automobiles, trucks, buses, motor coaches, and motorcycles) will be able to communicate with other vehicles and that this rich set of data and communications will support a new generation of active safety applications and safety systems. DOT predicts that the V2V communications will enable active safety systems that can assist drivers in preventing 76% of highway crashes.