UDOT investing in tech that lets cars and roads talk to each other

Posted at 10:42 AM, Jul 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-27 00:44:44-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Vehicles are getting smarter and faster each and every day thanks to the infusion of new technology.

They're able to keep you in your lane, maintain your speed, tell you if something is in your blind spot, try and help you avoid collisions, and even change lanes for you.

Now it's the roads that are getting an upgrade.

Lisa Miller, the Outreach and Growth Manager at the Utah Department of Transportation, says they're using something called Vehicle to Everything (V2X) Technology to improve our roads.

This means the technology is helping things like traffic lights, other cars on the road, and even the road itself to communicate with one another.

UDOT says this kind of technology can tell your vehicle about changing road conditions like ice or snow, as well as potholes, construction projects, traffic lights, and crashes, all before they come up so you can prepare for them and even avoid them.

"Connected and autonomous vehicle technology is a key answer to making sure that we can provide safe and mobile roadways throughout Utah and throughout the world," Miller said.

Back in 2017, UDOT installed something called Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) on Redwood Road to provide real-time bus availability.

They say since installing this it has increased ridership and helped UTA buses stay on time.

Now project managers are shifting their focus to the canyon roads.

"The DSRC and V2X deployments that we have in Big Cottonwood Canyon is an excellent example of the partnership that we have with the company called Panasonic," said Miller.

UDOT says they're just finishing up phase one of the projects in Parley's Canyon and Big Cottonwood Canyon, where they've installed 69 DSRC units.

The partnership with Panasonic helps get the V2X technology into newer cars, so they can talk to each other and the roads.

"The behavior of the tires on the vehicle, the road temperature, whether or not the windshield wipers are on, and there’s actually already a lot of V2X capabilities that are built into our cars today and on all on our roads all throughout Utah and throughout the nation," Miller said.

This investment in new technology can also improve how well fully autonomous cars work on the roads.

This is important as more companies like Tesla, Uber, GM, and Google all look to go driverless as soon as possible.

All of this tech does come with a hefty price tag though.

UDOT says over the last three years, they've spent about $13,759,000 on all V2X related deployments in Utah.

"The technology is getting smaller and it’s getting less expensive. It’s tested, proven and it’s deployed already. This is really the time to harness these capabilities and make sure that we have safer and more mobile roadways in Utah," said Miller.

Utah's Department of Transportation says they're also taking into account safety concerns as well as privacy concerns, like where the data they collect is stored and what they do with it to in order to improve the roads.

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