Innovation in the Roadway Safety Industry

Outsiders of the transportation infrastructure industry may look to autonomous vehicles as an icon of innovation on the roadways, but for state Department of Transportation (DOT) officials, manufacturers, suppliers, and contractors in the roadway safety and infrastructure industry, innovation is not a stationary achievement. It is much more than a mile marker and not as easily defined.

With different perspectives and priorities, industry stakeholders are finding that in addition to new technologies, innovation is heavily reliant on communication between entities. Industry leaders are working together to move forward and ATSSA is no different. The association works year-round to progress and develop creative solutions for all of its initiatives including highlighting innovative products and technologies, training, and ATSSA membership.


One innovative effort ATSSA is involved in is a joint initiative with the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Standing Committee on Traffic Control Devices (AHB50). Both ATSSA and TRB sponsor and conduct an exciting design competition, the Traffic Control Device (TCD) Student Challenge, to promote innovation and stimulate ideas in the traffic control devices area with a goal to improve operations and safety.


Find recent updates on the latest innovations in the resource list below and be sure to check back for updates. 

Resources

Sensor technology in roadway infrastructure

How devices are strengthening the lines of communication between human and automated drivers 

For many departments of transportation (DOTs), the collection and sending of real-time traffic data to roadway users is high priority. One way agencies nationwide are achieving this goal is through the use of sensor technology in roadway infrastructure, such as pavement markings or signs, allowing them to strengthen Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) communication. 

According to a 2018 study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), sensors in both vehicles and roadway infrastructure are capable of providing information on traffic, roadway, and vehicle conditions, better preparing motorists and non-motorists for what to expect as they travel. 

“Preparing roadway users for what lies ahead is key when it comes to increasing safety,” said ATSSA Senior Technical Advisor Eric Perry. “As an industry, we have come a long way with the technical options that are available to us to advance roadway safety—sensors being one of them. By using a number of sensors, we can better and more accurately detect things like traffic volume, detours, or road closures caused by crashes that can make a substantial positive impact.”

One recent roadway project including the use of infrastructure sensor technology was conducted in Colorado. The state’s DOT partnered with the technology start-up Integrated Roadways last year to install its “Smart Pavement” product on a stretch of roadway slightly south of Denver. The product uses sensors that can detect the direction, speed, and weight of a vehicle.

“Smart Pavement is … transforming roads into a digital platform for advanced mobility applications,” said Integrated Roadways CEO and Chief Technology Officer Tim Sylvester. “Smart Pavement identifies vehicle positions and behaviors in real-time, simplifying autonomous vehicle operation, providing dynamic traffic information, automatic notification for accidents, permanent vehicle counts, pavement condition indexing, and data-driven safety improvements. Future versions may make the road financially self-sustaining by selling access to data, connectivity, and services.”

In 2017, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) installed sensors in roadway pavement along stretches of Interstate 17 to monitor traffic flow and roadway conditions, allowing the department to make impactful decisions for future projects. 

Other concurrent research efforts are also being conducted. Senior research engineer Jerry Ullman and associate research engineer Adam Pike with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) said the institute has been involved with different projects that adapted roadway infrastructure to better support Connected Automated Vehicles (CAVs).

Ullman said roadway infrastructure was initially designed for the human driver and with new CAVs, the human driver will eventually be taken out of the equation, so the question is what do these CAVs need that differ from what a human driver? 

“The idea of utilizing sensor technologies in roadway infrastructure is including intelligent assets to support CAVs and human drivers as well,” Ullman said. “Having data or information from everything, not just traffic anymore, is going to go a long way to helping agencies and even private sector entities better manage their resources. Having sensors in infrastructure and our equipment allows drivers to know what lies ahead. It's a powerful tool.”

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