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Georgia Highway Becomes Testbed for Connected Vehicles

An 18-mile stretch of Interstate 85 in Georgia will be outfitted with a data management platform to support a connected vehicle pilot project and create a learning lab to educate jurisdictions about the technology.

A stretch of Interstate highway in Georgia will mark one of the latest developments of connected vehicle infrastructure and technology.

The Ray, a section of Interstate 85 in southern Georgia, will be outfitted with connected vehicle technologies as part of a two-year project organized by the Georgia Department of Transportation, Panasonic and The Ray, a stretch of highway named after Ray C. Anderson, a Georgia business leader in green energy. The roadway is a testing ground for innovation in sustainability and transportation.

Six roadside units, which will be deployed along the 18-mile length of highway, will send information from the connected vehicles to a traffic management platform. Four GDoT vehicles based in the area will be equipped with the onboard technology to send speed, location and direction data, along with various bits of info about vehicle operations such as windshield wipers or hard-braking.

“That data, by itself, doesn’t really tell you a whole lot,” said Andrew Heath, a state traffic engineer for the Georgia Department of Transportation. However, data related to the operation of windshield wipers or hard-braking can be used to send alerts to emergency responders or other drivers about conditions on the roadway, he added.

The pilot will use the “CIRRUS by Panasonic” data management platform, described as a “vehicle to everything” (V2X) system, already in use in other locations in Utah and Colorado.

“In Georgia, we’re starting small with a trial of the platform capabilities to demonstrate functionality and benefits – in effect, turning The Ray into a learning lab to educate jurisdictions throughout Georgia (and the nation) about connected vehicle technology,” said Chris Armstrong, a vice president for Panasonic USA, and lead for the company’s V2X business efforts. 

The project has several goals in mind, one of which is to introduce the opportunities associated with developing traffic management platforms that are fed detailed bits of data. Another aim is putting in place the infrastructure for a connected highway future.

“By 2022, V2X-enabled vehicles will be rolling off assembly lines and onto roads,” said Armstrong. “If through this program, Panasonic is able to help GDOT plan for a future where they are benefiting from statewide deployment of this technology and the actionable information it provides, we’ve achieved our goal.”

The project is expected to help the state get ready for the connected vehicle future, according to Heath. “Because the car manufacturers are saying it’s coming," he said. "And they’re building it into vehicles now, and they’re making announcements, in timelines like three to five years from now, that essentially all new vehicles are going to start having this technology incorporated in them, and we want to make sure that we’re prepared to handle it, and also reap the benefits of it.”

The project is small and nimble enough to be modified with possibly more connected vehicles or even more roadside units if the state determines it needs a wider test area.

“It’s kind of giving that whole data management piece a test-drive to see how would this work,” said Heath. “How could it be scalable moving forward? So that when this graduates to not just six locations and four vehicles, but thousands of locations and tens of thousands of vehicles.”

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.