A roughly 18-mile section of Interstate 25 is set to become a testbed for a connected vehicle and infrastructure program being funded by a $20 million federal grant.
(TNS) — Drivers traveling through what’s known as the “Gap” on Interstate 25 from Monument to Castle Rock might have more than an extra lane in each direction to ease their trip by 2021.
Those who have specially equipped vehicles could also get dashboard alerts about poor road conditions, crashes ahead and other traffic hazards.
The roughly 18-mile stretch, which will have been widened with a pair of toll lanes by late 2021, is likely to be the first place that Colorado Springs-area residents will see the technology, known as “vehicle-to-everything” or “V2X.”
Thanks to a $20 million federal grant awarded last month, a V2X pilot program developed by state transportation officials has grown to a plan to build a system that will cover more than 600 miles of highways across the state.
“We are building what we call the internet of roads, or digital infrastructure highways, which have the ability to listen — and to talk,” said Amy Ford, the Colorado Department of Transportation’s chief of advanced mobility.
The effort involves installing hundreds of roadside monitors along the thoroughfares and creating an online data system that can share information among infrastructure and vehicles that are outfitted with the technology.
State officials hope that the entire network will be live at the end of 2022. By then, several mainstream automakers are expected to have rolled out models with V2X capabilities. Toyota and Lexus have said they will begin making vehicles with the technology in 2021, and Volkswagen has pledged to start equipping its cars this year. Some companies, such as Cadillac, offer V2X in some models.
Ford compares V2X with the navigation smartphone app Waze, but “on super steroids,” conveying information instantly about what’s happening down the road. It not only has the potential to cut down on travel times, but also prevent traffic crashes by bringing more awareness to those who manage and maintain state highways and those who drive on them, she said.
Last summer, CDOT launched a more than $70 million partnership with Panasonic to install 100 units along Interstate 70 from Golden to Vail and equip more than 100 state-owned vehicles that travel along the corridor. As part of the pilot, a cloud-based software will be developed to collect and store data from the highway system so that the information can be used by CDOT and local governments to coordinate emergency responses and manage traffic. The department would also make the system available to third-party developers and feed the information into its online traffic alert platform, CoTrip.org, where it could be viewed by the public, Ford said.
In the next few years, the grant money will be used to expand the network to include I-25 from Pueblo to Wyoming and I-70 from Utah to east of Denver, as well as other stretches of highway in central and northeastern Colorado.
State officials say that the project will put Colorado on the map for a type of transportation innovation known as connected vehicle technology, which is seen by some as the first step in creating roadway networks that will be friendly to self-driving cars.
Other governments have had similar ideas. The Wyoming Department of Transportation is installing roadside units on Interstate 80 and equipping hundreds of fleet vehicles with the technology as part of a similar effort. Connected vehicle pilots have also begun in New York City and Tampa, Fla.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found that vehicle-connected technology could potentially prevent or mitigate 80 percent of crashes involving drivers who aren’t impaired, such as collisions that occur while vehicles are at an intersection or changing lanes. The technology has the power to alert a driver when a merging car in his or her blind side, a vehicle ahead suddenly brakes or an upcoming traffic light is about to change.
State transportation officials say V2X is a bargain considering the benefits. Adding the technology to the I-25 Gap is expected to cost about $1 million of the project’s $350 million budget.
“When we think about small investments in technology and how you can use that to improve how we move on our roads, it’s a very smart investment,” Ford said. “We can’t build our way out of congestion.”
CDOT envisions the system could one day be processing 2 billion messages an hour from 3 million vehicles traveling across Colorado.
Privacy protections will be built into the network, Ford added; it will not allow users to identify individual cars or drivers.
Ryan Trujillo, Colorado Spring’s innovation and sustainability manager, said that the city is in talks with CDOT to determine if the state would help support a pilot program to outfit some municipal streets and vehicles with V2X.
“The most exciting thing is roadways safety and improved efficiencies of our streets,” Trujillo said.
©2019 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.