Digitally connecting roads, cars drives DOT's plans

Intelligent transportation systems will be a large part of future innovations in highway travel. They will include vehicle infrastructure integration (VII) to link vehicles with roads through sensor technology so they essentially form a network, said Paul Brubaker, administrator of the Transportation Department’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA). He said the agency will release its Transportation Vision 2030 soon.

“VII can help reduce congestion, and future generations of this can actually help avoid accidents,” he said at a Nov. 28 event sponsored by the Industry Advisory Council. “It’s communication of the roads with the automobiles.”

The department will also publish a request for information in January or February 2008 asking the industry to comment on what the long-term business model and specifications for VII should be, such as what infrastructure should be implemented and how DOT should use radio spectrum that the Federal Communications Commission is making available for the applications.

DOT has data from existing roadside sensors and could make them available to providers of Global Positioning System devices once they enhance their products’ capability. Sensors make paying tolls more efficient with E-ZPass and integrated pay for parking.

VII is already in use in Tokyo, he said, adding that he hopes the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, part of RITA, will be able to create a multimodal VII demonstration in New York when the World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems meets there next year.

Brubaker also said he advocates the use of hydrogen to fuel vehicles.

“The department is going to come out with a statement, probably in two or three weeks, [that] is going to describe the hydrogen economy and why we think that is the long-term answer for the transportation infrastructure going forward,” he said.

Researchers and engineers have resolved technical issues that previously hindered hydrogen fuel-cell development, and the auto industry has told DOT that it is prepared to go into production on such cars by 2012. However, an infrastructure has not been put in place to fuel the cars, Brubaker said.

DOT is teaming with the Energy Department, the National Association of Counties and the National Association of State Fire Marshals to work with county fleets and the hydrogen association to build commercial stations in several counties. The Federal Transit Administration is also investing in a number of buses with fuel cells. Both efforts should start to drive down costs, Brubaker said.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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