High-speed car crashes are part of the high-octane action at racetracks, but one high-profile venue for racecars is being billed as a place where companies can test technologies designed to help prevent crashes.
In addition to hosting NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Formula SAE Michigan race events, Michigan International Speedway (MIS) soon will be available as an automaker- and supplier-neutral testing venue for the development of connected-vehicle technologies.
"The connected-vehicle concept is ultimately about creating a network of vehicles that refuse to crash. Beyond the safety aspect, the development of connected-vehicle technologies can result in improved mobility and fuel efficiency," said Gregory Krueger, Michigan Department of Transportation's (MDOT) Program Manager for Intelligent Transportation Systems. At a January press conference in Detroit, Krueger and other officials from MDOT, MIS, and the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) heralded the news of the MDOT-MIS partnership aimed at marketing the speedway's new R&D role.
Decades ago, the speedway in Brooklyn, MI, served as a proving ground for the now-defunct American Motors Corp. Although third-party rentals of the raceway are not new, being used as a testing hub for companies involved in developing connected-vehicle technologies is a first.
"A lot of the early and ongoing (connected-vehicle) research has focused on public road testing and evaluation to prove the concept. But when you get into the real design, development, and production of these systems—and a lot of these are safety systems—you don't want to do this on public streets," said Steve Underwood, Director of the Connected Vehicle Proving Center at CAR.
MIS' 1400 acres (567 ha) are highlighted by a 2-mi (3-km) D-shaped oval with 18-degree banking and 73-ft (22-m) wide turns. Florida's 2.5-mi (4.0-km) Daytona International Speedway and Michigan's high-speed track were both designed by Charles Moneypenny. Although MIS' oval track still sees racing, the road course—designed by Stirling Moss—saw its last race in the early 1970s.
The paved surfaces at MIS will provide a neutral, non-public zone for developing and testing vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-road technologies. MIS "has 3.8 mi if you use the oval and the outside road course. You can separate the two almost evenly to about 1.9 mi inside the oval and 1.9 mi outside the oval. It (the road course) has its original paving from 1968, so it does resemble a Michigan road," explained Roger Curtis, President of MIS.
Connected-vehicle technologies development gets another boost this summer as MDOT is slated to activate 20-plus wireless Dedicated Short Range Communications devices along a stretch of Telegraph Road in Oakland County. The broadcasts will send basic traffic signal information to vehicles equipped with advanced technology.