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Georgia Connected Vehicle Pilot to Cover 18 Miles of Interstate

A connected vehicle project with vehicle-to-everything technology in Georgia will continue a trend in the transportation sector that merges traditional highway infrastructure with digitally connected vehicles.

Connected vehicle technology is being expanded into rural roadways in Georgia, as the state expands its ability to collect and process transportation data to improve safety and the overall efficiencies of highways.

A partnership among the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), Kia, Panasonic and The Ray, a transportation technology testbed, will expand on a pilot project to deploy a connected vehicle environment along 18 miles of Interstate 85 to collect, process and share real-time roadway data from vehicles outfitted with Panasonic Cirrus technology.

“What this partnership really brought was leveraging a lot of the information and data generated through these systems, and making it more actionable for us,” said Alan Davis, a state traffic engineer with the Georgia Department of Transportation.

The pilot project began in 2019 with four Georgia Department of Transportation vehicles, collecting data and traveling the roadway frequently. This phase of the project involves seven Kia vehicles connected to the project.

“Those are Kia employees, running around every day. They go back and forth to their homes. They support the operations at the manufacturing facility. And so that one’s really interesting because it’s not a maintenance vehicle. It’s like a day-to-day person running around using the roadways for different reasons,” said Chris Armstrong, vice president of Cirrus at Panasonic’s Smart Mobility Office.

Some of the use cases currently being deployed in the Georgia connected vehicle project includes features like alerting drivers to rapid braking, which can signal an accident or other events that quickly slow traffic.

“We’re able to detect that very quickly, and warn the vehicles behind that can’t even see that vehicle yet,” said Armstrong. “Those are often things that can create sudden queues and can cause backups and secondary crashes.”

Weather alerts derived from windshield wiper use and other data, as well as highway work zones will also be shared through the system.

“If you’re going above the advisory speed, you’re going to get a warning related to that work zone,” Armstrong explained.

The technology represents the modernizing of roadway transportation, helping to not only improve safety, but the more efficient flow of goods and services, said Allie Kelly, executive director of The Ray.

“The reality is, big data informing transportation safety, transportation efficiency and transportation management is the convergence of the digital sector and the transportation sector like we’ve never seen before,” said Kelly.

Much of the technology deployed across Georgia roadways does involve camera and other technologies, Kelly noted.

“But that is a one-way street,” she continued. “We are talking about two-way interoperability. We’re talking about the collection of data, and the broadcasting back and sharing of information. And we’re talking about cloud-based computing of a magnitude that we don’t really understand yet, because the data streams aren’t at their largest possible depth.”

Panasonic is no stranger to connected vehicle technologies. It has deployed similar projects in Utah and Colorado.

States like Georgia and others are preparing for a future with vehicles connected and communicating with each other and infrastructure. The use cases for this technology are largely centered around improving safety, but also commerce and the movement of goods.

One of the phase two projects with The Ray and Panasonic is a deployment of freight signal priority technology, which gives freight vehicles additional green time at signalized intersections to reduce the number of stops and improve overall efficiencies. This technology has been used in numerous locations by transit and emergency vehicles.

“Safety, is generally speaking for agencies and especially for how connected technologies apply, is really the primary outcome. But that’s not to diminish the benefits that come from some of the mobility-focused applications that are in this space. But safety is, of course, paramount,” said Davis from GDOT.
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.