A New Age in Driving

Advances in roadway technology herald a transportation revolution


Innovations in roadway technology have increased the use of connected transportation networks. Soon, traffic will be organized and drivers will receive directions via digital signs. Cities around the country have begun adopting new roadway technology, and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has also joined the transportation revolution.

“Technology can make it possible to provide more reliable transportation options to benefit Americans in all areas of the country,” said Nicole Nason, Federal Highway Administrator, in Transportation Today.

The U.S. DOT Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) published a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), which allows states, cities, and agencies to compete for $60 million to revolutionize and improve transportation efficiency.

Wrong-Way Sensors

In January 2019, the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) placed new wrong-way driver detection systems on all freeway ramps on I-395, as part of an NDOT pilot program. Between 2005 and 2015, 409 wrong-way crashes in Nevada resulted in 75 deaths.

Nevada is one of a handful of states testing the detection systems. According to the NDOT, preliminary research shows that radar is 80% effective in stopping wrong-way drivers.

The wrong-way drivers alert system uses radar and closed-circuit cameras to detect vehicles driving the wrong way automatically. It activates two sets of red flashing wrong-way signs on the ramp, as an additional and highly visible indication to communicate to drivers that they are going the wrong way. The first set of signs stands four feet high, compared to the standard seven-foot sign, to be at the lower eye level of sleepy or impaired drivers.

The Ohio Department of Transportation has also installed wrong way sensors along an 18-mile stretch of I-71 in Hamilton County. It includes 92 electronic signs and 82 detection devices at 23 locations from downtown Cincinnati to Fields-Ertel Road.

“Although wrong-way crashes are rare, they are often deadly, and I believe that investing in this new technology will reduce the number of drivers traveling the wrong way on our interstates, prevent crashes, and save lives,” said Governor Mike DeWine, in a press release. “Improving our roadways to enhance driver safety is essential for improving the quality of life for people who live, work, and travel in our state, and this project is an important step forward for Ohio.”

Smart Pavement

 In a smart pavement pilot test, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) entered into a five-year deal with Integrated Roadways to test patented fiber-connected pavements.

Integrated Roadways installed four slabs of concrete embedded with sensors at a discreet Denver junction between 39th Street & Brighton Blvd. The sensors buried in the pavement will measure the speed, weight, and trajectory of vehicles that pass over it. The sensors send data through a power-over-Ethernet connection to control centers every 0.5 miles along the road. Each control center serves as a mini-data center stuffed with server racks and a wireless base station.

“Smart Pavement is the future of our roadways, transforming roads into a digital platform for advanced mobility applications,” said Tim Sylvester, Integrated Roadways founder, in a press release. “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.”

Data Analytics to Reduce Traffic Congestion 

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), in conjunction with Iteris and HERE Technologies, has begun to coordinate traffic monitoring and vehicle classification programs to produce data on traffic for highways and local roads.

In this partnership, MnDOT will use the Iteris ClearGuide platform to analyze data in real-time, leveraging features like dynamic maps, animations to optimize traffic response, and historical trend reports and congestions charts. The data, collected by HERE Technologies, will also be used to deliver contextual real-time and historical transportation information.

“Real-time and historical traffic information is the foundation for today’s digital measurement of road network performance,” said HERE Technologies public sector head Miranda Ashby-Annoon in a press release. “Alongside our partner Iteris, it’s a privilege to provide MnDOT with the data and analytical tools needed to help improve the safety and efficiency of roadways across the state.”

Data analytics could make roads safer, but the primary objective is to better monitor traffic in the state.

Brian Kary, the director of the transportation department’s Regional Transportation Management Center, also expects to pay close attention to traffic congestion data from rural areas where physical sensors haven’t been deployed, thus, less is known about consistent traffic patterns and how to improve them.


Featured image credit: North Carolina Department of Transportation

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