New Alabama project testing DSRC-based V2I technologies for future self-driving vehicles


A new multi-agency project led by the University of Alabama (UA) and the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) will trial advanced ‘connected vehicle’ technology to make traveling safer and more efficient across the state.

Tuscaloosa is the first city in Alabama to install the technology that will collect data for research used to decrease travel time, reduce vehicle crashes and lay the groundwork for future self-driving vehicles. The project involves installing vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) components using dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) radios, into 85 traffic signals throughout Tuscaloosa and Northport. The first 50 units are scheduled to be implemented this autumn by Temple, ALDOT’s traffic signal contractor. 

Initially, the units will be set up to send information only from infrastructure to vehicles, and not yet from vehicles to infrastructure. The information gathered through the system will allow faculty, staff and students at the UA to study signal phase and timing data (SPaT messages). These studies will lead to greater interaction between vehicles and traffic signals to communicate information such as road conditions or changing signals. The study is in response to a national challenge by American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) to install 20 DSRC radios in every state by 2020.

Multiple research centers within UA will be involved in the project, including the Center for Advanced Vehicle Technology, the University Transportation Center for Alabama, the Center for Advanced Public Safety, and the Alabama Transportation Institute. The University is working with the City of Tuscaloosa Department of Infrastructure and Public Services and other local, state and federal government agencies, as well as automotive manufactures, on these studies.

“We expect significant advances in the USA transportation system during the next 10 years, made possible through many of the technologies currently being tested in Alabama,” said Dr Bharat Balasubramanian, executive director of UA’s Center for Advanced Vehicle Technologies. “Some of the benefits we will see from these advances are improved safety, optimized traffic flow, and better fuel economy.”

Tuscaloosa’s Mayor, Walt Maddox, noted, “This innovative use of technology is a prime example of how we can use data to improve the lives of people in our community. Not only will it aid in personal convenience, but it could also help keep businesses on schedule, and further transportation research.”

Nick Crane, ALDOT’s transportation systems management and operations manager, added, “Our goal is to be one of the most advanced transportation systems in the country. With the collaborative culture and resources available, we feel that our goals are achievable.”

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About Author


Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).