The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), through the RoadX program, is working on several initiatives involving new technology and innovative strategies to make our roadways safer. The Smart 70 program will test Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) communications along I-70 including higher-risk, mountainous segments. V2I communication allows infrastructure along our roadways to exchange important information. Another term commonly used in describing this concept is Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). Some examples of infrastructure include traffic signals, strategically placed sensors, and overhead message signs. The benefits of this connected network would include:
- Limiting pockets of stop-and-go traffic;
- More overall efficiency of traffic movement;
- Increased trip reliability and decreased travel time; and
- Improved safety, mobility, and crash prevention.
Potential Scenarios Involving V2I in Colorado
- Onboard vehicle sensors and roadway surface sensors detect the presence of ice on the road and transmit the data to alert approaching drivers and CDOT road maintenance personnel.
- Traveling east from Glenwood Springs to Denver, you receive an alert of a snow squall 50 miles west of Denver. You are able to make better use of your time by stopping for dinner now while the roads are plowed and salted, and then safely finishing your trip.
- You receive an alert that an accident is causing a backup 30 miles ahead, which allows you to choose an alternate route to avoid a lengthy wait in traffic.
- Onboard vehicle systems detect that vehicles in the same lane and location have abruptly swerved, indicating the presence of an object in the roadway that you are made aware of 2 minutes prior to passing through that point.
Channel for Communication: Cellular vs DSRC
CDOT is working with two organizations in evaluating the options for communicating this critical transportation data. HERE and Panasonic are attempting to determine the best solution based on accuracy, reliability, capacity, speed of transmission, and financial considerations. HERE is primarily focused on cellular networks, which will be the mode used initially because it already exists, drivers are already familiar with smart-phone apps, and its superior text-to-voice capabilities. CDOT is also testing certain aspects and capabilities of cellular networks in addition to Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC) networks. DSRC is now capable of transmitting information quicker than cellular; however, it requires placement of a network of roadway sensors and onboard vehicle sensors in order to be reliable.
The Basics of the Smart 70 Phone App
The Smart 70 pilot program along I-70 will be compatible exclusively with Android devices. Those traveling I-70 may wish to download the application. The application is free but requires that your device has a minimum of Android 4.1 OS, 1 GB of RAM, and a 4 to 6.9” display. It will track your location, direction of travel, and speed. It requires no manual data entry by the user. Personal information will not be accessed and law enforcement will not be capable of using the data for speed enforcement. The app will have navigational capabilities similar to Google Maps or Waze and will benefit from accuracy verification through instantaneously verifying several sources. The Smart 70 app is designed to operate with minimal distraction to the driver.
Other CDOT & RoadX Projects Using Communication Technology in Transportation
Smart-Truck Parking System
Large commercial tractor-trailers have obvious limitations in locating suitable parking. This program provides real-time communication of available parking locations in the operator’s proximity. The goals of the program are better usage of driver time, lower fuel consumption, reduced roadway wear, and reduced pollution.
CDOT and Panasonic Developing Transportation Communication Network
CDOT has established goals with Panasonic to determine what is needed to develop a truly instantaneous transportation communication network that will ultimately be capable of reducing car accidents by 80%, significantly increasing highway capacity, and achieving considerable reductions in travel time. These goals are based on the assumption that Colorado will have roughly 4 million vehicles capable of connecting to the network.
Vehicle-to-Infrastructure Communication is certainly a key component to the long-term goals that Colorado is pursuing. These goals are by no means going to be easy, considering that CDOT is responsible for oversight each year of 28 billion miles of vehicle travel. This potential network has to cover a massive amount of roadway area.