Future Traffic Planning Took Shape In The 1990s

otsgnlsStarting in March 1992 and concluding in March 1993, it consisted of 100 Oldsmobile Toronados driven by local residents and car rental customers. Each car was fitted with an on-board computer loaded with Orlando-area tourist information, such as hotels, gas stations, and sight-seeing spots, and a navigable map database covering all the roads in a 1,200 |mi.sup.2~ area in five central Florida counties.

Each car also had a communications system for receiving traffic data and transmitting vehicle information.

Data collected from Orlando’s traffic signals, highway surveillance equipment, emergency vehicles, construction reports, and other sources were transmitted to each car’s computer. The computer then processed this information and calculated the fastest route to a location under current traffic conditions. Route instructions were provided on a display screen and also through a synthesized voice.

Each vehicle’s location was pinpointed and updated against its map database with information from a built-in compass, a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver, and sensors in the car’s wheels that measured distance traveled.

“TravTek is one of several ATIS research programs,” says Spreitzer. The first test, Pathfinder, involved 25 cars equipped with navigation systems in Los Angeles, from 1990 to 1992.

Another interim program, called FAST-TRAC (Faster And Safer Travel through Traffic Routing and Advanced Controls), combines ATMS and ATIS technologies. It involves instrumenting up to 1,000 intersections in Oakland County, MI, just northwest of Detroit. Running from 1992 through 1997, FAST-TRAC uses infrared beacons throughout the network to provide real-time traffic and route guidance information.

“Next in the list is the ADVANCE test, which is sponsored by the FHWA, the Illinois Department of Transportation, and Motorola,” says Spreitzer. ADVANCE (Advanced Driver and Vehicle Advisory Navigation Concept) involves up to 5,000 vehicles equipped with navigation and route guidance systems that will provide real-time traffic information to a traffic information center. ADVANCE runs over the next three years in the northwestern suburbs of Chicago.

“An enlarged Pathfinder 2 program involving up to 150,000 vehicles is being planned for 1995 to 1996 in Los Angeles, and a 50-city program with millions of vehicles is scheduled for 1997 to 2000,” says Spreitzer.

More than 40 states have formal IVHS programs, hoping to latch onto early breakthroughs that will improve their local traffic congestion and safety problems.

Some parts of the IVHS program, which began in 1988, are already being put in place. In one CVO program, for example, thousands of large trucks are already equipped with electronic locator systems and two-way digital satellite communications systems that link the drivers to their dispatchers.

Another CVO program, Advantage I-75, is being implemented along the I-75 corridor from Florida to Michigan and Ontario, Canada. Trucks equipped with transponders can travel any segment along the entire length of I-75 and not have to stop for weighing or state border inspections. Pre-clearance decisions at downstream stations are based on truck size and weight measurements taken upstream and on computerized checks of operating credentials in each state.

“This was not an easy problem to solve,” says Gerald Conover, IVHS director at Ford Motor Co., Dearborn, MI. “Each state has its own standards and protocols.”

Implementation of other IVHS programs will take longer. The AVCS program, for example, will be developed in three stages over the next 20 years. “Advice and warning systems will come first, followed by support systems, and finally fully automatic control systems,” says Conover.

The warning systems will detect obstacles or other vehicles through various combinations of optical, microwave and Doppler radar, stereo video, and infrared laser and beam sensing technologies. “Development of warning systems is especially difficult, because you have to reduce the false positives that the system will generate,” says Conover.

AVCS support systems will be used to assist drivers in specific applications, such as high-occupancy vehicle lanes now used as car pooling lanes. Drivers would drive their vehicles into the lanes, but once there, the support system would provide full or partial control. This would reduce the risk of collisions and allow the vehicle to safely increase its speed. Linking of several vehicles would even be possible.

Comprehensive control systems would build on all previous IVHS programs to fully automate driving functions on specially equipped highways. In other words, you’d get into the car, tell it where to go, and it would automatically chauffeur you from the on-ramp to the off-ramp.

A 1997 demonstration of just such a system, an Automated Highway System (AHS), has been mandated by Congress’s 1991 Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act. Obstacle warning, intelligent cruise control, lane departure warnings, collision avoidance, and various other systems all need to be developed.

“AHS offers an opportunity for the U.S. to apply its most advanced technology to IVHS and take the world lead in this field,” according to IVHS America’s recommendations for Federal IVHS programs. IVHS America is a non-profit scientific organization that acts as an advisor to the U.S. Dept. of Transportation.

There are numerous foreign counterparts to the IVHS. The largest is the European Prometheus program. Initiated in 1986 by Germany’s Daimler Benz, Prometheus served as a model for the IVHS.

Prometheus, or Program for European Traffic with Highest Efficiency and Unprecedented Safety, is a safety research project supported by virtually every automotive company in Europe. It also receives support from more than 50 research institutes.

The European DRIVE (Dedicated Road Infrastructure for Vehicle Safety in Europe) program has more than 70 projects aimed at integrating the road transport environment.

Japan has its Road Automotive Communications Systems and the Advanced Mobile Traffic Information System. Its car manufacturers and the Japanese government also are developing a navigational research project with more than 400,000 vehicles in and around Tokyo. That test, however, does not include real-time traffic information. Japan also has an IVHS Liaison Council that communicates IVHS information inside and outside Japan.

Even England has a functioning system. Its recently installed Trafficmaster broadcasts real-time information about accidents, construction problems, and other traffic delays. Trafficmaster consists of about 800 traffic monitors that cover more than 1,600 km of roads and more than 70% of the UK’s business traffic.

The technologies needed for the IVHS are basically “off-the-shelf,” according to GM’s Spreitzer. Much of it, such as sensors and navigational systems, are aerospace technologies adapted to automotive applications.

The TravTek navigational systems could be made available as options in three to five years for about $1,000, according to GM sources.

While many IVHS programs need substantial R&D before they become viable products, the road ahead is clear for substantially more intelligent vehicles and highways.

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