Ford Motor Co. and the Minnesota Department of Transportation announced on March 2 they had formed a partnership to construct an intelligent transportation system where cars will “talk” to the highway, and to each other, to keep passengers out of traffic jams and bad weather.
During the first phase of the program in Minnesota, state police cars, ambulances and state-owned cars and trucks will be outfitted with sensing devices that will collect traffic-related data from each vehicle, including vehicle speed, location, and heading. Weather-related data will also be obtained, including windshield wiper operation, lights on or off, outside temperature and traction-control system status.
The program, called Vehicles-as-Sensors, collects vehicle and roadway information and transmits that information to the state Condition Acquisition Reporting System (CARS). The data will be analyzed and information derived from it will eventually be available on highway message signs, 511 telephone services, and related Web sites. This information may also be used to deploy emergency assistance as well as road and maintenance crews.
Installation of the Minnesota system will begin in April. More than 50 vehicles are expected to be outfitted with the technology by this time next year. In police cars and ambulances, the sensors are fitted to pre-existing "black box" data storage units.
Late this year, the system will be in operation throughout the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area. Eventually, almost all municipal vehicles could be outfitted with the new technology. The system will be expanded to the rest of the state, and to other states, in the years ahead.
Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communication is the next step. Instead of data being broadcast to a DOT server for dissemination, it would be broadcast directly from one vehicle to another, for even faster communication. V2V communication represents the next generation in telematics and safety.