In a major step towards autonomous driving, nine major automakers are providing vehicles equipped with the latest in vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute for a year of real world testing.
The vehicles also include vehicle to infrastructure communication, which emits and receives messages about traffic patterns, street lights, and even road conditions. The idea behind the whole system is for every car to communicate its location, speed and direction so that all of the vehicles on the road know what is around them and what is coming.
General Motors provided Buicks and Cadillacs outfitted with systems that the company says are production ready. A group of third party, and other manufacturers vehicles are also involved, many of which will use aftermarket systems for the test. Making sure different manufacturers systems are compatible with one another is crucial for the entire setup to work. In total, about 3,000 vehicles will be involved in the study.
Ann Arbor, Mich., was chosen as the location for its traffic mix, weather patterns, varying road surfaces, and proximity to vehicle manufacturers. In total, 73 miles of Ann Arbor highway have been instrumented with 29 roadside communication devices, to test the vehicle to infrastructure technology over a long stretch of public road.
“Safety is our number one priority, and this research could save lives and prevent injuries across America,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood. “With more than 30,000 people a year killed on our nation’s roads, we need to keep looking for new ways to improve safety and reduce fatalities.”
When the study concludes in 2013, NHTSA will use the data to determine if this type of system is feasible for widespread use.