All That's Trucking

The Infrastructure of Autonomous Vehicles

March 9, 2016

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Freightliner's Inspiration Truck uses lane markings to keep the truck in the lane.
Freightliner's Inspiration Truck uses lane markings to keep the truck in the lane.

With all the buzz about the future of connected vehicles and driverless cars and trucks, there's an important component that needs to be addressed, and that's the infrastructure these vehicles need to interact with.

Some states are already working on some projects in this area, reports Governing. http://www.governing.com/topics/transportation-infrastructure/gov-driverless-cars-states-infrastructure.html

For instance, take something as seemingly simple as lane markings. Freightliner's Inspiration Truck, which it debuted last year to showcase autonomous technologies, has a lane keeping system that builds on the current lane departure warning technology using a stereo camera system to maintain trucks' lane position. The camera recognizes lane markings and communicates through the computer controls with the steering gear – but there have to be lane markings it can recognize.

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As Governing reports, Delphi, an auto parts manufacturer, took its driverless vehicle on a cross-country trip last year. Despite what are supposed to be uniform standards across states, the pavement markings were actually all different, officials told Kirk Steudle, the director of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT). As Steudle told Governing, “The hard infrastructure, the pavement and the pavement markings, that’s ours,” he said. “We have to, frankly, just take better care of it, and it has to be prioritized.”

Also in Michigan, the state, the University of Michigan and the city of Ann Arbor have been testing connected vehicles, including heavy-duty trucks, sharing information with the city’s traffic lights and road sensors. Even after the pilot program finished, the city has kept connecting more infrastructure to its network, reports Governing.

Meanwhile, Colorado is launching two efforts related to connected vehicles along the congested stretch of Interstate 70 that connects Denver with ski resorts.

One project, in conjunction with HERE, which provides mapping and location technology,  is being billed as the first cellular network-based connected vehicle alert system in North America. For the 2016-2017 winter driving season, the project aims to equip 1,000 vehicles owned by the general public with smartphone apps that will gather information about road and traffic conditions. That data will be used tol notify drivers of problems ahead using voice alerts.

The department will also be outfitting its own fleet with short-range radio transmitters, which will share the same type of information gathered by the smartphone apps, but a few plows will be equipped with friction sensors that can help officials decide when to enforce the state’s tire chain laws.

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Deborah Lockridge

Editor-in-Chief

All That's Trucking blog is just that – the editor's take on anything and everything related to trucking, with the help of guest posts from other HDT editors. Author Deborah Lockridge's career as an award-winning trucking journalist started in 1990.

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