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GCN : March 2014
GCN MARCH 2014 • GCN.COM 19 The Transportation Depart- ment's National Highway Traffic Safety Administra- tion announced last month it would begin to take the steps neces- sary to enable new vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technologies in light cars and trucks, bringing the dream of system- atic highway safety closer to reality. The new V2V technologies would help vehicles avoid crashes by al- lowing them to "talk" to one another to exchange safety data, including vehicle speed and positioning infor- mation, through a combination of roadside data-gathering sensors and in-vehicle devices. Yet even before the agency com- pleted its Connected Vehicle Safety Pilot last November, transportation managers were beginning to see the initial stages of a potential revolution in traffic safety technologies: the in- tegration of crowdsourced data from smartphones. The federal Connected Vehicle proj- ect, which began with a test deploy- ment in Michigan in August 2011, relies on vehicle-to-vehicle and vehi- cle-to-infrastructure communications over dedicated short-range communi- cations (DSRC) devices. The safety pilot, which was con- ducted in Ann Arbor, Mich., involved 3,000 vehicles as well as 29 roadside sensor/communications devices that cover 73 lane-miles of roads. Of the 3,000 vehicles, 64 were fully equipped with embedded devices that communicated data on speed, accel- eration, deceleration, yaw rate, turns, wiper activity, braking and other con- ditions and activities. Another 300 vehicles were equipped with one or more after-market devices, such as GPS units. All of the 3,000 vehicles were equipped with beacons -- called "vehicle awareness devices," or VADs -- that emit a signal 10 times per sec- ond. The safety pilot program does not include any mechanical crash-avoid- ance technologies. Instead, it relies upon issuing warnings to drivers of potentially dangerous conditions. In a case such as when a driver is trying to decide if it's safe to pass on a two- lane road, V2V communications can help detect threats hundreds of yards away, officials said. "V2V crash avoidance technol- ogy has game-changing potential to significantly reduce the number of crashes, injuries and deaths on our nation's roads," said NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman as the agency wound up a one-year "model deployment" of its Connected Vehicle project last August. By all accounts, the safety pilot has been a success, though the Depart- ment of Transportation and other par- ticipants have released few details of the pilot. "There is a scarcity of data because everyone is kind of holding their cards close to the vest," said Leo McCloskey, senior vice president for technical programs at the Intelligent Transpor- tation Society of America (ITSA), a non-profit public-private-academic research and advisory organization. "But no one is even hinting that there are any challenges in the architecture. It is working exactly as defined." However, some industry observers note that the federal Connected Ve- hicle program may already be out of date in that it doesn't include the most rapidly growing source of all traffic data -- smartphones. According to Nancy Wilochka, pub- lic affairs officer at DOT's Research and Innovative Technology Admin- istration, "We are just beginning re- search into the crowdsourcing area, so at this point we don't have informa- tion to share." Crowdsourced smartphone data could solve one of the major chal- lenges of connected vehicle efforts -- the expense of sensors. "Sensors are really expensive to deploy," said Ofer Avni, CEO of Cellint, a provider of cell-based traffic data. "After billions of dollars invested worldwide, only a very small fraction of roads are cov- ered, less than 1 percent. So we look for alternatives." SMARTPHONE BOOM "I believe it's a revolution," said Push- kin Kachroo, professor of transporta- tion, electrical and computer engi- neering at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. "Before, I used to build gadgets. Now we have smartphones, so compact and with all the technol- ogy already in there. It has GPS, it has an accelerometer, it has a magnetic compass, it has a thermometer -- it has all of that. And then to make it the best deal, it connects with wireless and through Bluetooth." To top things off, Kachroo said, "there are software development kits so anyone can program for them. To me it is absolutely a revolution. Many applications are coming. It's just the beginning." Even before developers started cre- ating traffic applications for smart- phones, developers of traffic manage- technology has game-changing potential to signi cantly injuries and --- DAVID FRIEDMAN, NHTSA ACTING ADMINISTRATOR