Colorado plans to revolutionize transportation system.

Connected vehicles as pictured in RoadX Vision report

Colorado has a master plan called RoadX Vision that aims to revolutionize the state’s transportation system, creating “crash-free, injury-free, delay-free and technologically transformed travel” in the state. Its mission is to team up with public and industry partners to build one of the most technologically advanced transportation systems in the country, making Colorado a leader in safety and reliability, according to the RoadX Vision document. The state is committing $20 million to kick-start RoadX.

The report goes on to say that innovation has declined in the state’s transportation system, and traffic deaths and injuries are tarnishing any achievements that Colorado has made. It also makes the point that the vitality of the state’s economy is hindered by growth-caused traffic congestion. It predicts that a person born today will turn 18 in a world in which manually controlled vehicles will largely be a thing of the past.

The state’s historical approach to relieving traffic congestion — adding more lanes — has been expensive, resulting in an $800 million per year funding gap, “a legacy system that we do not have the funds to fully maintain.”

Self-Driving Cars

Self-driving cars are among the radical changes that are coming, the report notes. And change is coming quickly, with such technology as smart apps to direct mobility; connected vehicles that will be able to communicate with each other, helping to prevent accidents and improving traffic flow; trucks traveling in platoons via connected vehicle technology; and features such as virtual guardrails and infrastructure that can speak to vehicles to help prevent car accidents. But if the state ignores such technology, “even these advances [will] seem like yesterday’s,” the report says.

Connected Vehicles

In a related article, Elise Reuter writes for Summit Daily that starting next June, Interstate 70 will become part of the Colorado Department of Transportation’s (CDOT’s) Connected Vehicle Pilot Program, which will provide more than 700 CDOT first responder, ski shuttle, and commercial vehicles on that highway with devices that use radio waves to transmit information about road conditions, traffic, and road closures. The state also will install the technology, called Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC) devices, on roadside infrastructure, where it will collect data on vehicle speeds and road incidents.

Reuter quotes I-70 Coalition Director Margaret Bowes as saying of Colorado’s plans to use such technology, “I wouldn’t be surprised if we were at the forefront of it.” Initial meetings about the project began last week. CDOT hopes to install DSRC in selected vehicles next year. Those vehicles will serve as data collectors, automatically transmitting information to CDOT that can be sent to drivers on I-70. The project will be on the roadway between C-470 in Denver and Edwards. CDOT Communications director Amy Ford told Reuter that the department chose the I-70 Mountain Corridor for this project because of its unique road conditions and the varieties of travel it is used for.

For example, a phone might notify a truck driver traveling downhill to slow down for an approaching curve in the road. Ford said they would also look at hands-free ways to share the information with drivers, such as having phones that read conditions out loud.

CDOT vehicles, such as snowplows, installed with friction sensors could send information on icy or snowpacked road conditions to this database. Sensors installed on highway infrastructure tracking traffic volume, travel speeds and accidents could also feed this data into the system for ‘very, very real-time’ traffic updates.

Ford told Reuter: “A lot of people are saying this is some Jetsons future.” But that day is now, she added. Tim Jackson, president of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association, expects autonomous vehicles to enter the marketplace within three to five years.

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