Although the first venue in the six-city U. S. Department of Transportation’s Connected Vehicle Drive Clinics is just weeks away, there’s a lot at stake in what happens. Dubbed the Driver Acceptance Clinics, these clinics are designed to test how drivers respond to and accept in-car safety technologies.
Following the clinics, beginning in fall 2012, the DOT will deploy thousands of wirelessly-connected vehicles to test how the technology works in real-world driving situations. The deployment site will be determined through open competition.
It’s what happens as a result of the clinics and the deployment that the National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA) will use to decide. in 2013, if the technology is sufficiently advanced enough for the agency to begin a series of rulemakings that could eventually require manufacturers to provide vehicle-to-vehicle communications technologies in new vehicles.
Michigan International Speedway (MIS) in Brooklyn, Michigan is the site of the first venue Aug. 8-11. Subsequent Driver Acceptance Clinics will be held in Brainerd, Minnesota Sept. 19-22 at a location to be announced; Oct. 22-25 at the Richard Petty Driving Experience in Orlando, Florida; Nov. 6-9 at the Smart Road Virginia Tech Transportation Institute in Blacksburg, Virginia; Dec. 5-7 at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, and Jan. 16-19 at the Alameda Naval Air Station in Alameda, California.
What happens in the clinics
Each clinic will include about 100 local drivers recruited to take part and about 24 cars equipped with technology applications for the drivers to evaluate (and be evaluated by researchers) as they use the vehicles in a controlled environment that simulates real roadways and intersections.
The driver clinics will gauge how ordinary drivers accept in-car collision warnings, “do not pass” alerts, warnings that a vehicle ahead has stopped suddenly and other similar safety messages. The DOT will also be using the clinics to test the performance of wireless safety technology, called Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC), in diverse geographic environments.
At MIS, for example, the trials will take place along the MIS road course, some of which will be outfitted with temporary traffic signals to mimic city streets and roads. In addition, movable traffic lights will allow agencies to test anywhere on the track’s pavement throughout the 1,400-acre property.
Clinics part of DOT research initiative
The driver clinics and subsequent model deployment are part of a major DOT research initiative managed by the Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) and the NHTSA.
The DOT is working with the Crash Avoidance Metrics Partnership (CAMP), a research consortium of eight automobile manufacturers, to develop technology that will help cars, buses, trucks and other vehicles avoid crashes by communicating with nearby vehicles and roadway infrastructures such as traffic signals, dangerous road segments and grade crossings.
Members of the CAMP vehicle safety consortium include Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp., Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan Technical Center North America, Toyota Motor Corp. and Volkswagen Group of America.
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