In July, I wrote about our upcoming Connected Vehicles Safety Pilot driver clinics. The first of these was in Brooklyn, Michigan, at the Michigan International Speedway, and participants were pretty excited about the new safety technology. Today, Brainerd, Minnesota, hosts our second clinic, and I can't wait to see the results.
With Connected Vehicles, cars, trucks, and buses are equipped with devices that communicate with other vehicles on the road. The technology warns drivers of nearby hazards, such as an impending collision, a vehicle approaching in a driver's blind spot, or an unsafe lane change. But unlike a cell phone or radio, these devices do not pose a distraction; drivers only become aware of the safety application when they are in potential danger.
While some cars currently have forward-collision warnings, blind-side warnings, and other high-tech safety systems, those systems are large, radar-based, and very expensive. We’re looking at a system that uses low-cost devices placed in vehicles, traffic signals, and other infrastructure.
The clinics in Michigan took place over four days, and they are part of a cooperative research project run by DOT and eight car manufacturers. The idea is to see how ordinary drivers get along with the new technology—can they use it safely, comfortably, and effectively? Over 100 drivers participated--people from all walks of life and no prior knowledge of connected vehicles. Overall, drivers reported that they were extremely impressed with the safety features and ease of operation that this innovative application offers.
In addition to the on-road driving tests, drivers also participated in focus groups to help DOT researchers gauge how they were taking to the new technology. During the second day, drivers watched an educational video about the new technology. After just one day of driving and watching the educational video, many participants already demonstrated a thorough understanding of the system—its limits and its capabilities.
Hopefully, this research will one day yield even greater safety results for all drivers.