Signs

Road Sign

Traffic signs are important fixtures that help advance roadway safety every day throughout the United States. Today, a variety of symbols, shapes, and colors are used to convey messages to motorists on the roadways.

 

There are many benefits to using symbols, which include immediate communication with all roadway users and their ability to break language barriers. Colors can communicate approaching scenarios such as using orange to indicate an upcoming work zone or red for an upcoming stop or yielding point. A number of shapes are also used to indicate oncoming situations or to provide roadway users with information such as octagons for stop and long horizontal, rectangular signs displaying guidance information.

 

Today, traffic signs are being looped into the world of autonomous driving technology. Research efforts are being made to equip traffic signs with technology, like embedded machine-readable codes, to allow them to communicate with Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) and other mapping devices.

 

ATSSA has dedicated group of members on its Sign Committee (member login required), who work to:

  • Enhance members’ businesses by increasing their understanding of traffic control devices on private property,
  • Influence the present and future direction of Minimum Retroreflectivity Standards,
  • Inform and educate roadway safety industry members on sign industry-related matters,
  • Provide knowledge and education about signing retroreflectivity,
  • Work to have dedicated funds identified and available for sign management systems and the implementation of upgraded programs to conform with MRS,
  • Monitor and influence the development of a new MUTCD chapter on changeable message signs
  • Improve upon and solicit greater committee member participation in Sign Committee meetings and on task forces, including recruitment of new committee members.

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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