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Georgia Makes Way for Driverless Vehicles, 18 Miles of It

The Ray, an 18-mile stretch of Interstate 85 in southern Georgia, functions as a test bed for next-generation transportation technologies, including striping to enable autonomous vehicle use.

highway blur_shutterstock_156230078
Next-gen highway striping has been deployed on a strip of highway in Georgia with the aim of making roadways safer while also helping to accommodate advanced driving systems (ADS) technology.

The Ray, an 18-mile stretch of Interstate 85 in southern Georgia, functions as a test bed for next-generation highway technologies. A new partnership among the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) and private-sector companies, like 3M and Panasonic, has seen the deployment of 3M’s Connected Roads All Weather Elements striping with what the company is calling “refractive bead technology.” In short, tiny reflective beads are embedded into the striping to make it more visible to human drivers and cars equipped with ADS. 

“GDOT is a strong proponent of placing robust pavement markings on our roadways that meet not only dry retroreflective performance requirements, but also nighttime and wet-reflective requirements,” Andrew Heath, state traffic engineer for Georgia DoT, said in an email. “The 3M products have been shown to have high retroreflective readings when deployed under appropriate conditions. These properties should help pavement markings be visible for ADS systems and human drivers alike.”

State data has indicated a higher number of traffic fatalities during wet or nighttime conditions, said Heath, making the more reflective striping a step toward making the roadway safer.

“Over time, it is expected that the new All Weather Elements product will be rolled out in additional locations across the Georgia roadway system,” said Heath.

High-tech striping isn’t the only technology being deployed along The Ray, named after Ray C. Anderson, a Georgia business leader in green energy.

The state is also deploying a network of six roadside units capable of communicating with autonomous vehicle technologies.

Four state demonstration vehicles have been equipped with on-board units, and five of the roadside units have been deployed, Heath explained. The state transportation agency plans to show off the technology in a demonstration event next month “to show the platform simulating crash, queue, and weather events along the roadway,” said Heath. The GDOT vehicles send speed, location and direction data to the roadside units, along with various bits of info about vehicle operations such as windshield wipers or hard braking.

The project could then morph into “a secondary agreement” if the Department of Transportation decides to expand the number of connected vehicles it operates, or eyes more connected vehicle technologies coming online in the consumer car market, said Chris Armstrong, a vice president for Panasonic USA and lead for the company’s V2X business efforts, in an interview with Government Technology in August.

“You’ve got the infrastructure piece and the fleet piece, and we’re demoing that at relatively small scale. But then a lot of the benefits will be on the application side. It’s what do you do with the data that comes back in, that the vehicles are giving you, and how do you build applications on top of that, for various benefits? Whether it’s mobility benefits, or safety benefits, or other forms of information,” he explained.

The pilot is using the “CIRRUS by Panasonic” data management platform, described as a “vehicle to everything” (V2X) system, already in use in other locations in Utah and Colorado.

Government Technology is a sister site to Governing. Both are divisions of e.Republic.

Government Technology is Governing's sister e.Republic publication, offering in-depth coverage of IT case studies, emerging technologies and the implications of digital technology on the policies and management of public sector organizations.
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