A few weeks ago, I saw the future. Well, at least a few pieces of it.

I took a test ride in several vehicles equipped with technology that one day will help drivers avoid accidents by alerting them to hazardous situations. The federally funded project is led by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, and it includes eight major auto manufacturers, along with the city of Ann Arbor, Mich.

On the outside, the cars look like standard production models. But on the inside, they include wireless communications gear, geolocation capabilities and other equipment. They’re being used to develop technologies and data standards that will let vehicles on the nation’s highways automatically trade speed and direction information — and warn one another if a crash is imminent.

Warnings are transmitted through heads-up display technology, and they reach the driver in plenty of time to stop — often long before the driver could have actually seen the hazard.

The system didn’t work perfectly for our demo, but the potential is clear. This could save a lot of lives once all the bugs are worked out. More than 30,000 people were killed in highway accidents in 2010, and thousands more were seriously injured. This technology, if it can be included in production vehicles for a reasonable price, could make our highways safer.

You’ll see a lot more about this innovative project in our December issue. But I bring it up now because it’s a great example of what this issue of Government Technology is all about. This month we celebrate our 25th anniversary, and to mark the occasion, we decided to look at the role technology could play in solving some of the biggest issues facing our nation over the coming quarter-century.

Specifically, we asked how technology can help provide better and more affordable health care to a greater number of people — particularly as the nation’s population ages. We asked how technology can provide college students with an education that lets them thrive in a competitive global job market and at the same time control spiraling tuition costs. We asked how technology can help unclog overburdened roadways and shore up crumbling bridges. And we asked how technology can help police deploy scarce resources more effectively and ultimately improve community safety.

We think the answers to these questions are intriguing — and they give reason to be optimistic about the future, even as we do a little bit of celebrating of our past.

So, welcome to our 25th anniversary issue. To our longtime readers, we sincerely thank you for your years of support. And to our more recent arrivals, welcome aboard; we’re glad you’re here. Now click to get started on the next 25 years.

Steve Towns, Editor Steve Towns  |  Editor

Steve Towns is editor of Government Technology, and executive editor for e.Republic Inc., publisher of GOVERNING, Government TechnologyPublic CIO and Emergency Management magazines. He has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at newspapers and magazines, including more than 15 years of covering technology in the state and local government market.