WYDOT moves forward with new safety communication technology for vehicles

WYDOT   11-2-18

New technology the Wyoming Department of Transportation is piloting on Interstate 80 could help reduce crashes and make the interstate safer.

WYDOT officials explained during a news conference in Cheyenne on Tuesday, Oct. 30 how new connected vehicle technology will communicate road information and alerts to motorists in near real time.

“The information collected and distributed through connected vehicles will provide better awareness for the entire transportation network,” said Ali Ragan, GIS/ITS project manager. “The goal is to reduce the number of crashes, injuries and road closures on Interstate 80. Wyoming is proud to lead the way in the future of transportation safety.”

WYDOT received a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2015 to develop and participate in the Connected Vehicle Deployment Program. Wyoming was one of only three locations in the nation to participate. The federal government also selected projects in New York City and Tampa, Florida for the pilot.

WYDOT plans to install onboard communication units on about 100 of the department’s vehicles and about 300 private fleet vehicles. WYDOT is also installing 75 roadside units on and around I-80.

“This technology WYDOT is piloting will help keep the traveling public safer by giving them almost real-time information,” said WYDOT Director Bill Panos. “This cutting-edge technology will improve transportation along the I-80 corridor not only for Wyoming residents but for our commercial truck drivers who transport their goods within the state and across the country.”

During the news conference, WYDOT officials used several vehicles, including a snow plow and a Wyoming Highway Patrol vehicle, to illustrate how the technology communicates with each other during a forward collision warning, a distress notification, a construction zone notification and weather warnings.

Depending on the situation, the technology would either interact vehicle to vehicle, vehicle to roadside unit or roadside to vehicle.

For the vehicle-to-vehicle communications, a vehicle sends out a safety message and a nearby vehicle then receives it, allowing critical information to be shared in near real-time.

For vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, a vehicle that has information on an incident sends it to the roadside unit, which then sends it to WYDOT’s Transportation Management Center (TMC). The TMC can also send out alerts based on information collected from connected vehicles and other systems including weather stations and reports from maintenance employees to the road side unit, which is the roadside-to-vehicle communications piece.

“Connected vehicles are not autonomous and require an alert and active driver,” Ragan said. “They provide situational awareness, allowing the driver to anticipate and react to changing road and weather conditions as well as traffic hazards.”

Visibility issues often become a problem during the winter in Wyoming with high winds that accompany a majority of the snow storms.

Tom DeHoff, District 1 district engineer, and Col. Kebin Haller, of the Wyoming Highway Patrol, both said snow plows and Patrol vehicles are often hit by other vehicles because of poor visibility. Those conditions also contribute to other crashes along the I-80 corridor.

“Our long-term goal is to adopt technology such as the connected vehicle that will help keep our WYDOT family and the traveling public safe,” DeHoff said. “I really think this technology will help us out and reduce crashes.”

Haller said the timely information motorists will receive will greatly improve safety for everyone.

“The connected vehicle technology will provide our troopers, WYDOT employees and the traveling public more protection on the road,” Haller said. “The more people who participate in this project, the more timely and accurate information we can pass along. This new technology will not only help reduce crashes, but those secondary crashes that result after an incident.”