Suda: IT paves the way to safer roads

The Transportation Department recently met with top technology, communications and mobility experts to explore how to use advanced telecommunications technologies to achieve measurable reductions in vehicle accidents and traffic congestion.

By harnessing and rapidly deploying emerging communications technologies, we could reduce the number of crashes on our roadways. The new language of technology — wikis, mashups and
mobile ad hoc networks — is emblematic of potential new opportunities for transportation applications.  
I had the honor of moderating the Innovation Roundtable on Advanced Wireless Communication for the Transportation Network. It was hosted by Thomas Barrett, DOT’s deputy secretary, and Paul Brubaker, administrator of DOT’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration. 

The assembled group of 40 leaders in academia, industry, and federal, state and local governments engaged in an important discussion of how to enable Internet and communications technologies to better allow vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-infrastructure and infrastructure-to-engineer communications. 

Barrett discussed the crucial role of openness and open networks and noted that DOT’s approach to innovation emphasizes getting experts together to share information so they can spur innovation and entrepreneurial creativity.

Brubaker said DOT must experience “an opening of the aperture that allows for the use of advanced technologies rather than limiting the focus to existing technologies.”  

New technologies would also allow for dynamic rerouting and improvements in signal timing and synchronization based on current and evolving traffic and weather conditions. Moreover, existing and emerging devices could be used to assess tolls and fees for all modes of transportation and remotely monitor bridges, roads, rails and other critical infrastructure. 

In discussing the importance of open platforms and systems to enable those innovative applications, industry leaders asserted that such openness could be a magnet for business and private-sector partners. They also offered perspectives on strategies for using advanced wireless technologies for transportation safety and commercial applications. 

The rapid progress of advanced wireless communications has serious implications for business, said one expert from academia who presented an overview of trends in mobile ad hoc networks and their potential to provide alternatives to existing approaches.

The workshop also allowed us to consider some of the technological considerations related to mesh networks and advanced wireless communications technology. 

DOT will establish a community of practice on this topic that will allow roundtable participants to consider unresolved questions, share new ideas, and foster connections among leaders in the technology, communications and transportation sectors.

The roundtable proceedings will be online next month at www.rita.dot.gov.

Suda is acting director of the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in the Transportation Department’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration.  

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