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Austin tests traffic tech for connected vehicles

The technology allows connected cars to communicate in real-time with the traffic signal controllers to increase pedestrian and vehicle safety

Map shows where SPaT deployments are operational and underway in Austin
Map shows where SPaT deployments are operational and underway in Austin

Austin has completed deployment of dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) technology at five city intersections following its entry to the US Department of Transportation’s signal phasing and timing (SPaT) challenge.


This technology would allow connected cars to communicate in real-time with the traffic signal controller, increasing pedestrian and vehicle safety as part of the operations of the signalised intersection.


V2I challenge


The challenge is an initiative of the V2I (vehicle to infrastructure) Deployment Coalition, led by the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials, the Institute of Transportation Engineers, and ITS (Intelligent Transportation Systems) America and is conducted through the National Operations Centre of Excellence (NOCoE).


From the NOCoE website, the SPaT challenge is outlined as:

“A challenge to state and local public sector transportation infrastructure owners and operators to cooperate together to achieve deployment of DSRC infrastructure with SPaT broadcasts in at least one corridor or network (approximately 20 signalised intersections) in each of the 50 states by January 2020. SPaT broadcasts are expected to be accompanied by MAP and (Radio Technical Commission for Maritime Services) broadcasts.”

The idea behind the challenge is to encourage cities to get the necessary underlying connected infrastructure in place in readiness for autonomous vehicles even when the investment can’t always be presently justified.


More projects planned for 2019

Austin is the first city in Texas to undertake the challenge and two more projects are planned for completion in 2019.


It was chosen by the US Department of Transportation as the deployment site for the V2I portion of the federal connected vehicle reference implementation architecture, commonly known as the ‘V2I hub’. Successful implementation of this guiding architecture was the chief enabler to getting Austin and Texas on the SPaT map.


The small test devices can broadcast industry standard basic safety messages in the immediate vicinity of the intersection to surrounding vehicles equipped with on-board units. The basic safety messages indicate vehicle position, motion, brake system status and size, and provide vehicles with SPaT information as well as MAP data, which is used to illustrate intersection geometry using high-resolution formatting.


This type of information will help future connected traffic signals and equipped vehicles to communicate about pedestrian or bicyclist presence in the intersection, improve vehicle performance, and provide engineers with traffic data that can be used to improve safety and operations.


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