Congress told emerging technologies developing a viable driverless vehicle would significantly reduce crashes, deaths, and injuries

ongress told emerging technologies developing a viable driverless vehicle would significantly reduce crashes, deaths, and injuries.

The Subcommittee on Highways and Transit heard testimony today from Kirk Steudle, the director of the Michigan Department of Transportation how autonomous vehicles will influence the future of surface transportation.

Steudle cited how the use of sensors and communications equipment will enable vehicle-to-vehicle communication and vehicle communication with the surrounding roadway infrastructure. Currently on the Board of Directors, Steudle appeared on behalf of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ (AASHTO). Citing the many years of research, testing, and technology advances needed in vehicles and infrastructure, from sensor-based information to wireless-communications to replace the shortcomings of the driver, the potential to reduce vehicle crashes is significant. Examples of how technology will improve safety include:

  • Warnings of potential crashes before they happen (either through sensor technology for vehicles within sight or short-range communications for hazards that are not visible to the driver)
  • Avoidance technology to steer away from or around an obstacle
  • Automatic braking to react more quickly than humanly possible
  • Extended green or yellow time on traffic signals if approaching too quickly to stop
  • Traffic signal override to give emergency vehicles the green (currently possible for ambulances, police, fire)

The future is not without challenges, however. For example, sensor-based systems will require pavement markings and traffic signs to be readable by computers, and communications equipment will need periodic signal repeaters along the highway. Privacy and security concerns will need to be addressed. Data sharing will be a concern, from defining what information is to be shared and with whom this information is shared. The need for faster communications, faster than traditional cellular technology, such as dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) that provides fast network acquisition, low latency, high reliability, priority for safety applications, interoperability, security, and privacy is paramount.

A summary of the recommendations presented to Capitol Hill:

  • Encourage NHTSA to decide whether to mandate vehicle-to-vehicle technologies in new vehicles
  • Protect the DSRC’s 5.9 GHz spectrum exclusively for the connected vehicle program
  • Fund additional research furthering the next round of Surface Transportation authorization such as supporting the Center for Operations Excellence, which is being jointly developed by AASHTO, the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), ITS America and FHWA
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