Using Technology to Spring Forward
Each spring, everything seems alive with possibility, and nowhere is that more evident than at the Federal Highway Administration. Notably, we are at the beginning of a new era of highway safety with new and emerging technologies and tools guiding the path ahead.
Often the start of spring means plenty of rain and wet roadways. It is fitting that in this issue of Public Roads we learn about FHWA's Weather-Savvy Roads initiative, which includes two innovative road weather management solutions: Pathfinder and Integrating Mobile Observations (IMO). Promoted in the fourth round of Every Day Counts, these solutions can help agencies better manage road systems and inform travelers ahead of, and during, adverse weather conditions. See “Are Your Roads Weather Savvy?” on page 16.
The future is already upon us in the form of connected vehicles and related technologies known collectively as “the Internet of Things.” If FHWA researchers are correct, the road to the future is paved with wireless technology. By connecting vehicles, Global Positioning System (GPS) guidance systems, and roadside infrastructure, we can enhance the promise of roadway safety. The fatal crashes on U.S. roads in 2017 gave us 37,133 more reasons to make the development of innovative safety measures a priority. These new technologies have the potential to radically improve the safety and mobility of our transportation network--saving lives and resources.
The U.S. Department of Transportation's connected vehicle (CV) interoperability test, which brought together teams from the CV Pilot Deployment Program sites in New York City; Tampa, FL; and Wyoming, is another step toward moving connected vehicles into real-world deployment. Interoperability ensures that CVs and roadside infrastructure from different manufacturers can exchange information and use the information in a consistent manner. The testing occurred in summer 2018 and successfully demonstrated interoperability. For more information, see “Setting a Course to Interoperability” on page 4.
Seeing how one of the Nation's most rural States (Wyoming) and most populous city (New York City) are working together to test cutting-edge CV technologies is very encouraging. From America's backroads to Broadway, every part of the U.S. transportation system stands to gain from this work.
In our zeal to adopt better, more efficient, and more effective tools, we cannot afford to be overeager. We must walk before we run. A related article, “Measuring Maturity” on page 21, explores the implementation of technology readiness level (TRL) assessments. TRL assessments are an important safeguard against using trailblazing technologies before they are fully ready. FHWA published a guide in fall 2017 to help decision-makers at the State, local, and Federal levels use TRL assessments to determine whether technologies are mature enough for widespread use, or whether additional research is needed. These assessments improve research outcomes and reduce risks associated with deploying new tools.
From TRL assessments to road-weather management and connected vehicle technologies, new tools like these are helping us spring forward--which is a step in the right direction.
Brandye L. Hendrickson
Federal Highway Administration