Like many commuters that drive to work, I sometimes fantasize of a futuristic car that drives itself from my parking space at home to the Heavy Duty Trucking office 25 miles away in suburban Chicago.
I could use the time to get a jump on work (by which I mean 45 minutes of extra sleep).
As over the top as that sounds, that day is perhaps closer than one might think.
Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced on his blog
last week that the Department of Transportation will be testing the safety capabilities of Connected Vehicles this summer.
Fitted onto to cars, trucks and buses, the technology will allow vehicles to directly communicate with each other and with roadway infrastructure like traffic lights and railway crossings. The devices will be able to warn drivers of approaching hazards, such as red lights or slowing traffic. In this version, a set of red LED lights mounted at the base of the windshield will flash, giving the driver advanced warning of changing conditions, and extra time to react.
The nascent technology has transformative potential. According to the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, the technology may address up to 82 percent of crash scenarios with unimpaired drivers, preventing tens of thousands of automobile crashes every year.
In addition to safety, Connected Vehicles could also give rise to what is called Dynamic Mobility Applications. For example, vehicles would help drivers avoid congestion by receiving real time traffic data both from other cars and the infrastructure itself.
For now, though, DOT is focused on safety, and more specifically seeing if drivers respond well the system. This summer, DOT is running Driver Acceptance Clinics to test safety capabilities of Connected Vehicles.
RITA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have partnered with Crash Avoidance Metrics to run six driver clinics. The program will kick of in August in Brooklyn, Mich., and run through five more cities until January of next year. Each clinic will test 24 cars equipped with Dedicated Short Range Communications technology with around 100 drivers on test tracks in urban, suburban and rural areas.
Two trucks are expected to participate in program with a variety of commercial drivers recruited from local fleets. At least one Truck Driver Clinic will be held at a trucking industry event, which is to be announced.
Drivers and members of the trucking industry seeking more information are invited to attend free public meeting August 2-4 in Chicago. A special session on commercial vehicles will be held on August 4, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. The meeting is being held by DOT's Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office. For more information on the meeting: www.its.dot.gov
Connected Vehicles at your local dealership are still a ways off, but the clinics this summer are a good start. LaHood wrote excitedly about the program, and hinted that he might want to try these cars out for himself. Me, too, although it isn't quite my dream of automatic chauffer.