First publishedin ITS International
The Michigan Test Bed is equipped with 52 protoype DSRC units
Pete Goldin reports on upgrades to the USDOT's Michigan Test Bed, where IntelliDrive technologies are being pioneered
The future of vehicle communication is being innovated right now, on the Michigan roads of Novi, Farmington, Farmington Hills, and Livonia, as part of the USDOT
's Michigan Test Bed.
Designed to test IntelliDrive technologies and applications, the Michigan Test Bed is located on 75 miles of highway and arterial roadway located in Oakland County, Michigan. The Test Bed is equipped with 52 Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) RoadSide Equipment (RSE) units.
What many ITS companies may not realise is that the Test Bed is available to them to test next-generation vehicle communications technology. Moreover, technical upgrades to the facilities which are designed to maintain their currency have either already been completed or are in hand.
"The USDOT picked the Detroit area as the home of the Test Bed because the OEMs are here," explains Frank Perry, associate with Booz Allen Hamilton
, which deployed and operates the Test Bed. "The USDOT's Michigan Test Bed provides a playground for the OEMs to test hardware and software."
Vision of the future
"Imagine a world where highway crashes and their tragic consequences are significantly reduced," says the IntelliDrive website. "Vehicles will be able to 'talk' to traffic signals to eliminate unnecessary stops - saving travel time and fuel, and reducing emissions; travelers have continual access to accurate travel time information about all mode and route options, and the potential environmental impacts of their choices; transportation system managers have the real-time data they need to accurately assess transportation system performance and actively manage the system for optimal performance." This is the USDOT's vision for IntelliDrive. Understanding the important role the Michigan Test Bed plays in the future of transportation requires an understanding of IntelliDrive, a multimodal initiative with the goal of developing interoperable networked wireless communications between vehicles and the roadway infrastructure to improve the safety and mobility of the US transportation system. The IntelliDrive program is a major initiative of the USDOT's Research and Innovative Technology Administration
's (RITA's) ITS Joint Program Office.
"The Michigan Test Bed, which was deployed by the USDOT in the Novi area in Michigan, provides a unique testing environment on public roads," says Udi Naamani, general manager of the Connected Vehicle Proving Center. "Maintaining and improving this installation as a test site can be critical to the success of the IntelliDrive programme."
Honing communication skills
The first RSE was installed in the Test Bed in September 2007, and application testing was finally completed one year later. The Test Bed has been in use ever since.
On the freeway, the RSEs are attached to the state's CCTV camera poles, and on arterials the RSEs are mounted on traffic signal poles owned by the Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC).
"The DOT wanted to capture information on a selection of different types of intersections with both low- and high-speed traffic," Perry explains. "They also wanted areas where the radio ranges of RSEs would overlap each other, to see how vehicles and the system would interact with multiple RSEs.
Perry adds that the biggest challenge is that the Test Bed is using prototype equipment, which is not as robust as he would like. The hardware must be replaced periodically, and the Booz Allen Hamilton team has to use the services of the RCOC every time it has to perform any type of onsite maintenance.
The USDOT provides 10 vehicles, seven Jeep Grand Cherokees and three Ford Edges, for the Michigan Test Bed; each one is equipped to communicate with roadside units. These particular models were selected primarily because they had space for navigation systems, which were replaced by the Test Bed's onboard equipment.
The two-way communication system enables the vehicles driving on the Test Bed to collect and send probe data such as location, speed and heading, and also to retrieve and send data from onboard sensors monitoring traction control, whether headlights or windshield wipers are operating, and even tyre pressures.
The probe data can be used by traffic management and emergency management services to respond to real-time events such as congestion but can also provide historical data for trending and analysis purposes. Perry says the data can be used to help detect potholes, slippery surface and other dangerous conditions which need to be addressed by those responsible for traffic management.
Conversely, the vehicles can receive text messages as well, such as travel times, construction zone warnings, alternative routes and amber alerts - many of the same notifications that would traditionally be posted on variable message signs.
The Michigan Test Bed is located on 75 miles of highway and arterial roadway in Oakland County