According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 35,092 fatalities in vehicle accidents in 2015. This was a 7.2% increase over the prior year and the highest rise in the U.S. since 1966. Anthony Foxx, the U.S. Transportation Secretary, issued a need for action among data experts, safety specialists and others to determine the causes and create solutions. Here in Colorado, there were 546 such fatalities in 2015, representing a staggering 12% increase over the previous year.
In our prior series, Cause of Accidents: Human vs Non-Human, we discussed the human causes that contribute to auto accidents such as speeding, driving while intoxicated, texting, and failing to use a seatbelt. These are problems over which drivers truly have control. We do not have control over the behavior and safety consciousness of other drivers; however, we can further educate ourselves and promote driver safety in our communities. The non-human conditions that may be a factor in car accidents include rain, snow, ice, and vehicle product failure or defect. Next, we look at how new developments in technology and data analysis can potentially heighten traffic safety through accident prevention.
Technology for Reducing Congestion in Colorado
The Denver Post recently released a projection that by 2040 the greater metro area will experience an increase in population from 3.1 million up to 4.3 million, a rise of nearly 20%. If you think the region's roads are overfilled with traffic now, consider adding another million people to the mix. Douglas Rex, a transportation planner for the Denver Regional Council of Governments, feels that the new wave of advancements in technology should have a large positive impact. Researchers and federal officials suggest advancements such as autonomous vehicles (self-driving cars) should be more widely used over the next 10 years. In the southeastern areas of Denver, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has invested in a $7 million project to implement electronic on-ramp “control” meters. These are the devices that you may have seen in other states which regulate the number of vehicles entering the highways through red and green signals.
Real-Time Data Sharing in Colorado
As new technology is introduced, one critical aspect is that new equipment, new vehicles (and drivers), transportation managers, and law enforcement are all connected to share real-time information interactively across a network. The Rocky Mountain Institute, a non-profit organization focused on progress in areas such as reducing pollution and clean sources of energy, is active in making more of this real-time data available to drivers. Data such as traffic volume, accident reporting, and weather changes will be shared minute to minute.
CODOT Road X Initiative
RoadX is a state program that uses the latest technology to enhance safety, increase mobility, and maximize efficiency in the transportation system. One of the core goals is to determine practical options, other than highway enlargement, to reduce traffic congestion. On Interstate 70, there is a $10 million investment to add communication devices to commercial and shuttle vehicles. Drivers will be able to use a mobile device app for the latest alerts and updates. RoadX hopes to technologically reform Colorado's roadway travel to reduce delays, crashes, and injuries.
Vehicle & Roadway Advancements
Prototypes of various self-driving vehicles have emerged, yet there is still a question regarding how they will perform in day-to-day road conditions. The testing demonstrates that these vehicles are capable of computer-controlled steering, braking and accelerating to avoid accidents based on human (driver) impulses. The automaker Tesla has recently exhibited a cruise control-type system that responds to the car traveling ahead. The system is capable of engaging a braking system that prevents collisions. By 2018, all U.S. vehicles sold will have rear backup cameras.
Colorado's transportation sector is adding sensors along roadways that will increasingly communicate road and traffic data. Other RoadX advancements include the following:
- Applications capable of directing mobility
- Vehicles and drivers will be connected for interactive communication
- Linking of commercial trucks that travel as “road platoons”
- Virtual guardrail technology for limiting crashes
Colorado is active in promoting many options to use new technology to transform our travel environment. In the next four segments of this series, we will take a closer look at specific technologies that can lead to enhancements in traffic safety. Some of these developments include smart cars, systems for vehicle-to-vehicle communication, and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication.