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Innovation Roundtable Explores Advanced Wireless Communication to Meet the Nation's Congestion Reduction and Safety Goals

Innovation Roundtable Explores Advanced Wireless Communication to Meet the Nation's Congestion Reduction and Safety Goals

On Thursday, May 22, 2008, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) met with top technology, communications, and mobility experts to explore how to leverage advanced telecommunications technologies to achieve measurable reductions in vehicles crashes and congestion. Deputy Secretary of Transportation, Vice Admiral Thomas J. Barrett, and RITA Administrator, Paul R. Brubaker, hosted the landmark Innovation Roundtable on Advanced Wireless Communication for the Transportation Network.

Highway congestion

Each year the United States loses more than 43,000 citizens on the nation's highways and experiences more than 6 million traffic accidents. The total economic cost is in excess of $250 billion per year in hospital bills, repairs, lost work, insurance payments, and rehabilitation. According to the Texas Transportation Institute, the average American loses an average of 38 hours a week sitting in traffic and Americans collectively waste three billion gallons of fuel each year due to congestion.

Vice Admiral Barrett noted that USDOT's "enterprise approach" to innovation is focused on "getting experts to the table to share information…in order to spur innovation and entrepreneurial creativity." The assembled group of 40 leading academics, industry representatives, and state and local government officials discussed how to enable internet and communications technologies to better allow vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-infrastructure, and infrastructure-to-engineer communications.

RITA Administrator Brubaker noted that USDOT must experience "an opening of the aperture" to allow for the use of advanced technologies, rather than limiting the focus to existing technologies.

Harnessing and rapidly deploying these emerging communications technologies will lead to fewer crashes on our roadways and result in overall improvements in the performance of the transportation system. Such efforts will lead to improved situational awareness including dynamic rerouting and improvements in signal timing and synchronization based on real time and evolving traffic and weather conditions. Tolling and fees for all modes of transit can also be enabled through existing and developing mobile electronic devices and bridges, roads, rails, and other critical infrastructure can be remotely monitored.

In discussing the importance of open platforms and systems to enable these innovative applications, Robin Chase, of Meadow Networks, asserted that such openness "could be a magnet of opportunity for the business realm" and private sector partners. David P. Reed, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, noted that advanced wireless communications technologies are "progressing extremely rapidly and this has serious implications for the business ecosystem."

This roundtable is part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration's continuing efforts to bring diverse communities together to discuss challenges and strategies for solving the nation's toughest transportation challenges and enable needed innovations. Future roundtables and strategic outreach will explore appropriate business models for enabling these technologies in the transportation sector. For further information, contact Ellen Bell at the Volpe Center:, 617-494-2491