By Deborah Hersman
This week, I was in Orlando, Florida, for the ITS World Congress. ITS stands for Intelligent Transportation Systems, which, in short, means using technology to improve transportation safety and efficiency. Before I spoke at a session about using technology to improve safety for aging drivers, I had the opportunity to see a demonstration of the Department of Transportation’s Safety Pilot program.
Safety Pilot involves testing connected vehicle technologies to determine their effectiveness in reducing crashes. Vehicle to vehicle (V2V) or “Connected vehicles” enables vehicles to “talk” to each other. For example, I rode in a Mercedes Benz and then a Ford with Gregory Winfree, Acting Administrator of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, at the ITS demonstration. These were just two of the many cars from eight different manufacturers that were equipped with V2V technologies at the testing site. During my test ride, I experienced vehicles that assisted the driver with blind spot detection and other warnings to prevent collisions through aural, visual or haptic alerts.
These were not self-driving cars, but rather technology assisting the human driver in making decisions. Connected vehicle technology is emerging and holds promise to help improve safety on our roadways. With 33,000 annual fatalities on our roads, this is important technology to pursue.
We need to use all the tools in our toolkit — including putting down our cell phones and listening to alerts — to save lives and prevent needless tragedies. I commend the Department of Transportation’s RITA and all the manufacturers and organizations involved in the pilot for the work they are doing to test and deploy technology to improve safety on the road.