SAIC contract continues IntelliDrive testing

  • 23-Aug-2010 10:03 EDT

IntelliDrive systems are being developed to improve safety and reduce congestion, but that may be expanded to include tolling and taxation.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s IntelliDrive communications network plans are inching onward as other government agencies explore its applicability in tolling and other areas. Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) received a $17 million contract late this summer to stabilize the Michigan Development Test Environment.

The Federal Highway Administration funds will enable SAIC to continue improving the wireless technologies being promoted as a way to decrease traffic accidents, improve data gathering used for traffic management, and cut fuel consumption.

The development will continue through 2013, when U.S. DOT will decide whether to move forward with deployment. Michigan’s test bed is the larger of two proving grounds, extending 75 mi (120 km). A smaller test bed in California spans 10 mi (16 km) of roadways.

The ongoing federal support for IntelliDrive is prompting other agencies to determine whether the technology can be extended to other applications. For example, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), which manages the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area roadways, is determining whether IntelliDrive technologies can reduce the need for toll equipment infrastructure.

Though most U.S. projects focus currently on toll collection, some think that legislators will begin considering mileage-based taxation. That approach may gain support if and when electric vehicles start making a significant impact on fuel consumption.

“I think government will get into this space,” said John Horn, National Director of Machine to Machine Communications for T-Mobile. “When they start losing fuel tax as electric vehicles and alternatives gain critical mass, I’ll be stunned if they don’t start taxing vehicles on miles driven.”

In Europe, there are already efforts aimed at taxing vehicles on the number of miles they’re driven. The Netherlands’ recently completed Road Pricing Trial program set the stage for a rollout of a mileage tolling project that will be rolled out beginning in 2012. It will employ technology designed by IBM and NXP Semiconductors that leverages GPS data and telematics signals to track the number of miles vehicles are driven.

Before such a project can be seriously considered in the U.S., researchers have to determine what technology will be used to gather data on roadways.

Among the many aspects of the U.S. DOT’s ongoing study, one of the foremost is determining how the rapidly evolving telematics field complements IntelliDrive. A 5.9-GHz dedicated short range communication network will provide vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure links.

But some aspects of the vehicle-to-infrastructure communications such as vehicle location can also be gathered by monitoring the telematics hardware in vehicles. The ongoing studies will help decision makers understand the trade-offs between costs and benefits.

Researchers are also looking at ways to distribute those costs.

MTC is also studying whether IntelliDrive can determine if vehicles are qualified to operate in high-occupancy-vehicle lanes. IntelliDrive transmitters could gather data sent over the vehicle’s CAN bus, which could include occupant detection data gathered by airbag controllers.

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