I’ve talked a lot about how the Department of Transportation is a data-driven organization – data helps ensure we are as effective as possible when it comes to improving our country’s safety, mobility, and economic competitiveness.
Without good data, we wouldn’t be able to plan as effectively for the future or identify trends as they first start emerging. That’s exactly what was on Deputy Research and Innovative Technology Administrator Greg Winfree’s mind when he addressed the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Forum last week.
As the Deputy Administrator noted, committing to an approach that leverages research, technology, and data to address key transportation issues and guide public policy just makes sense. Today, innovations such as vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, GPS, and remote-sensing can advance safety and improve performance with fewer dollars and better results.
For example, last year Arizona’s Maricopa County launched SMARTDrive, an initiative that uses Intelligent Transportation Systems technology to adjust traffic signals for emergency responders and transit operators so they can get where they need to go faster – and safely. In addition, SMARTDrive also provides real-time traffic and transit information to travelers.
This initiative not only has the potential to save lives in Maricopa County, but can now serve as a model for the rest of the country, as more communities pursue transportation funding for projects incorporating ITS technology.
But we need more – we need other innovation leaders in other states to pivot off the research and resources out there and be the next Maricopa County.
The groundwork has already been laid, thanks to decades of tireless Intelligent Transportation Systems research by the Department, the auto industry and leading academic research programs. Together, they have brought to life the once-revolutionary concept of the connected vehicle – cars that can talk to other vehicles, and even infrastructure like traffic signs, using Wi-Fi like signals, to improve safety and even avoid accidents altogether.
Connected vehicle technology enables secure, anonymous, and continuous communication between vehicles, infrastructure and other elements of the system – a capability that will prevent crashes, reduce congestion, and provide commuters with information to make efficient transportation choices.
At DOT, we’re truly excited about what is possible, but there is of course much more work to be done. That’s why the Research and Innovative Technology Administration is working with industry and academic stakeholders to bring together the technical, institutional, and policy framework needed to advance this technology from the research and development phase, to implementation and commercialization.
But in order to ensure the long-term success of this research and technology, we need more early adopters; we need more transportation and civic leaders to step up, work together, to find new and creative ways to bring innovative, problem-solving technology to their communities.
When those communities are ready to use the resources MAP-21 makes available, DOT will be there to support their efforts.