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Connectivity-The Evolving Paradigm for IntelliDriveSM

Connectivity-The Evolving Paradigm for IntelliDriveSM

The IntelliDrive system would rely on an active safety system that involves sensing
and messaging not only between vehicles, but between vehicles and outside elements.
The IntelliDrive system would rely on an active safety system that involves sensing
and messaging not only between vehicles, but between vehicles and outside elements.

In January 2009, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) launched "IntelliDriveSM," rebranding what was formerly referred to in the intelligent transportation systems community as Vehicle-Infrastructure Integration. The IntelliDrive program is focused on enabling a surface transportation system in which vehicles do not crash and road operators and travelers have the information they need about travel conditions. IntelliDrive will establish an information backbone for the transportation system that will immediately support applications to enhance safety and mobility and, ultimately, enable the vision of a crashless, information-rich surface transportation system. IntelliDrive will also support applications to enhance livable communities, environmental stewardship, and traveler convenience and choices.

Safety Applications to Reduce Crashes and Save Lives

IntelliDrive safety applications present promising solutions for alleviating the tragic social and economic impacts of the nation's crash fatality and injury rates-41,000 fatalities and 2.49 million injuries in 2007. Some experts estimate that up to 15 percent of crashes in the United States might be avoided if drivers were alerted to hazards before encountering unexpected conditions. Providing drivers with timely alerts about hazards, as was demonstrated in the Japanese SmartWay project, has shown to be up to 80 percent effective in reducing traffic crashes at certain traffic safety "hot spots" in Japan.

IntelliDrive safety alerts increase drivers' situational awareness, which increases reaction times. Even last-second warnings can give drivers enough time to brake, or perhaps even steer around a vehicle ahead of them. Some of these active safety features include:

  • Signal and Stop Sign Violation Warning-Drivers who are at risk of violating a red signal light or a stop sign receive a graphical and audible warning from on-board equipment (OBE).
  • Curve Speed Warning-Drivers are warned by the system to slow down if their vehicle's speed is higher than recommended for the curve.
  • Collision Warning-IntelliDrive provides audio and visual warnings to drivers who are approaching a slowed or stopped object too rapidly, or following a vehicle too closely. Likewise, if a vehicle traveling ahead suddenly decelerates, the driver behind is notified to ensure his or her awareness, even if visibility is limited by weather conditions or obstructed by large vehicles. The system also warns drivers of impending side or rear-impact collisions, or when they are about to drift out of their lane.

DSRC Remains the Approach for Active Safety

The technology behind active safety systems involves sensing and messaging between vehicles, or between vehicles and infrastructure elements. On-board equipment alerts drivers instantly when sensors detect a hazard. The hazard message must be delivered instantly so that the vehicle can generate a timely alert, and, to protect privacy rights, messages must be secure and anonymous. At present, Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) remains the only available technology that meets the extremely fast transmission ("low latency") and security requirements of active safety applications. By comparison, when we wait for signals to synchronize on our cell phones and computers, we experience relatively high latency.

Eventually, it is likely that a new technology may emerge that will improve on DSRC as the most practical platform for active safety applications. When that happens, the challenge will be to plan an orderly transition to the newer technology- a common phenomenon in the information technology industry.

Connectivity Now: Focus on Market-Ready Technologies

As IntelliDrive continues to work toward a safer future with DSRC-based vehicle-vehicle and vehicle- infrastructure integration, a parallel effort to deliver mobility benefits using market-ready wireless consumer electronics technologies is under way.

DOT launched the SafeTrip-21 Initiative last year to leverage existing and emerging mobile communications and navigation technologies. This year, SafeTrip-21 will conduct two pilot test projects in the San Francisco Bay area: Networked Traveler and Mobile Millennium. Partners include the University of California/Berkeley, based at the California Center for Innovative Transportation; Nokia/NAVTECH; and the California Department of Transportation. In addition, DOT is partnering with the I-95 Corridor Coalition through a SafeTrip-21 project to display real-time travel information in airports and shopping malls, and to evaluate the consumer benefits of real-time travel information.

Networked Traveler systems, which will be pilot tested in the San Francisco Bay Area this year, deliver information directly to consumers in practical and personalized formats-via cell phone, desktop, laptop, handheld computers and mobile Internet devices, and invehicle after-market devices. Like a social networking site, users personally customize the types of information they want to receive, such as:

Tell Me About The Route-Realtime information about a specific travel route:

  • Route choice (choose the most eco-friendly, or the fastest route)
  • Traffic (avoid areas of high traffic congestion, take alternate routes, delay travel)
  • Travel times (determine which is quicker-driving or public transit)
  • Road condition alerts (speed zone information, work zones, upcoming intersections, hazard alerts)
  • Transit planning (transit schedule and GPS-based current transit status)
  • Personal notification of your bus stop or bus transfer point.

Watch Out for Me-Safety alerts (to make road users aware of each other).

  • Collision avoidance
  • Vehicle distress signals (alerts other drivers that help is needed)
  • Pedestrian alerts (notifies drivers of pedestrians in their path; allows pedestrians to tell the traffic signal that they need more time to cross the road).

Smart Parking-Up-to-the-minute information about parking availability.

In the Mobile Millennium project, consumers volunteer to download free software to their GPS-enabled cell phones that will send anonymous speed and location readings to servers. The data will be integrated into traffic models that produce an estimate of traffic flow and then relayed back to the mobile phones and posted on line at Researchers expect to have 10,000 volunteer participants by April 2009.

Under another SafeTrip-21 initiative, starting this summer, the I-95 Corridor Coalition will post realtime travel information online, in airports and shopping malls, and at Interstate welcome centers to deliver consumers the information they need to make better travel choices.

  • Online, interactive maps will enable travelers to assess traffic conditions within and between major metro areas at a glance. For example, travelers driving from Washington, DC, to New York will be able to see any major incidents delaying travel on their route.
  • At Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, kiosks and the airport's web site will offer travelers access to real-time information on ground transportation options to and from the airport. Information about driving times, public transportation options and status, taxis, shuttle vans, and airport bus services will enable travelers to choose the ground transportation options that will work best for them.
  • Large-screen displays of travel time information at Tyson's Corner shopping mall in Northern Virginia, and at Interstate welcome centers in Virginia will help travelers plan their trips.

The Federal Role: Parallels With Internet Development

If the challenges facing the IntelliDrive evolution seem daunting, it is useful to look back over the past 20 years and consider the early development and evolution of the Internet. In its early years, many also raised questions about the Internet's ability to provide reliability, security, privacy, scalability, ubiquitous coverage, and so forth. Despite it all, the Internet rapidly developed into a worldwide communications system that broadly meets users' needs-consistently, predictably, and cost-effectively. Early developers may not have imagined the system's scalability, or its widespread use in everyday life. The key to the Internet's success was development based on the Internet Protocol Suite (commonly known as TCP/IP). Although the Internet Protocol Suite resulted from work sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the early 1970s, many organizations and individuals contributed to its development over time. Today the Internet is a "network of networks" that consists of millions of private and public, academic, business, and government networks without a need for public infrastructure or a central source of operations and maintenance support.

The Internet analogy provides an example of the role of government in similar initiatives. No single entity could develop the Internet. Likewise no single entity can develop IntelliDrive. The federal government has a role in working with industry and standards development organizations to establish the framework of protocols necessary for IntelliDrive connectivity. The federal government also plays an important role in fostering industry oversight mechanisms and the establishment of necessary legal protections and safety requirements, as well as in providing seed funding for innovative research efforts. Ultimately, the market will determine how the system is deployed and what services are provided. Advances in information technology over the last half century portend an exciting future and tremendous opportunities for IntelliDrive.

For the latest information about the program, please refer to the following IntelliDrive websites at or

IntelliDriveSM is a registered service mark of the USDOT, Intelligent Transportation Systems/Joint Program Office.