Denver traffic

Tech may play a big role in unsnarling Denver’s traffic problems.

In an article about how self-driving cars could help to unsnarl Denver’s traffic, Jon Murray writes for The Denver Post that solutions are in the works:

Experts agree more about the scale of that transformation — essentially marking a sea-change in driving — than on the details.

Murray quotes Douglas Rex, the Denver Regional Council of Governments’s Transportation Planning and Operations Director, as saying large tech-driven changes are on their way: “It’s just a matter of when.”

Murray cites the coming of autonomous vehicles (expected to be common on the roads within the next decade or two) as one large piece of that solution, because experts say self-driving technology will prevent most car accidents and relieve traffic. The Colorado Department of Transportation, along with local agencies, is testing a variety of technologies, including improved real-time road information systems and on-ramp access signals that can adapt to road conditions.

New Signals on Ramps

In a first-of-its-kind pilot program in the United States, new signals will automatically adjust the length of time each driver has to wait before entering Interstate 25’s northbound on-ramps between Ridgegate Parkway and either Colorado or University Boulevards. And although Denver’s Department of Public Works has not yet installed adaptive signals, it now is able to remotely reprogram 90% of its 1,250 old-fashioned traffic signals.

Self-driving vehicles are not yet proven in various real-world conditions (such as being able to detect road lines that are buried under snow, Michal Addady writes for Fortune. But, the computers that control the technology have shown that the systems can accelerate, brake, navigate, and steer, “theoretically removing the whims of accident-causing human impulses,” Murray wrote. And without this new technology, the prospects for improving the traffic in the Denver metro area (whose population is projected to grow from its current 3.1 million to 4.3 million by 2040) would be bleak.

Winter Driving Machine

In another news item, about something that could one day help Coloradans to drive in wintry weather, Nissan recently showed its Rogue Warrior concept car at the 2016 Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto. CBC reports that it has a top speed of 100 kph (62 mph) and can scale a 45-degree slope of “groomed snow.” Writing last month for Digital Trends, Andrew Hard reported about the Rogue Warrior after seeing Nissan’s Titan Warrior concept at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show. The Rogue Warrior uses snow tracks instead of wheels, a system Nissan dubbed the Dominator. It has deep treads that easily dig into snow and sleet and has 23 inches of ground clearance.

He writes:

The Rogue Warrior looks like a marauder from a snowed-over apocalyptic future, but you’ll be surprised to know just how close to stock the vehicle actually is. While the tracks, suspension, and enlarged wheel wells are all aftermarket, the Rogue’s engine, all-wheel drive system, and even the X-tronic transmission are unchanged from the factory. This is possible due to the Xtronic’s continuously variable design, as the lack of fixed ratios gives the powertrain much more flexibility to travel over a variety of surfaces at different speeds.

Image by Jared Tarbell, used under its Creative Commons license.

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