U-M receives nearly $20M to equip Ann Arbor with ‘smart intersections’

Traffic lights. (Pixabay)

ANN ARBOR – A University of Michigan effort focused on the safety of automated and connected vehicles will be bringing more than 20 “smart intersections” to the city of Ann Arbor.

These intersections will be capable of collecting and sending information to connected cars in real time.

U-M was awarded $9.95 million for the effort by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration. An additional $10 million was contributed toward the project from in-kind funding from corporate partners.

Of the federal dollars, U-M will receive $3.8 million directly and will distribute to subcontractors the remaining $6.2 million to subcontractors.

The intersections will be fitted with cameras, infrared sensors and radar in order to capture anything that moves in the area, including cars, cyclists and pedestrians, and what speed and direction the person or vehicle is traveling.

This information will be transmitted to nearby connected vehicles, prompting onboard alarms when cars are in hazardous situations.

Vehicles have been communicating with one another and with infrastructure in Ann Arbor since 2012 through the “living laboratory” of the U-M-led Ann Arbor Connected Vehicle Test Environment and the prior Safety Pilot Model Deployment.

At its peak, it became the largest connected vehicle deployment in the world, with nearly 3,000 vehicles on the road. Through these projects, researchers were able to provide evidence that connected vehicles can reduce unimpaired collisions by 90%. Blind spots in connected and automated vehicles still exist, despite advances in technology. Sensors can also be impaired by factors like poor weather.

U-M professor of engineering and research professor at UMTRI, Henry Liu, said smart intersections equipped with sensors can help vehicles detect more dangers by providing additional data wirelessly.

“One way to overcome the physical limitations of the onboard technology is to have these sensors placed locally that can provide information in situations where, say, line of sight is being blocked by a bus, or some other barrier,” Liu said in a statement. “Roadside sensors can detect a possible danger that is blocked, and broadcast that danger’s information to the vehicle.”

Read: See how U-M researchers are teaching driverless cars to detect pedestrian movement

It is a challenge to demonstrate the latest safety technologies of automated and connected vehicles since there are so few of them on the road. In an industry constantly pushing to evolve, slow data generation equals slow adoption of new technologies.

“One of the most promising aspects of this project is that we will be able to pave the way for a national connected and automated vehicle deployment,” James Sayer, UMTRI’s director said in a statement. “We will definitively demonstrate not only the technology but a clear path to funding the infrastructure—both aspects needed for a national deployment. Furthermore, the Smart Intersections Project will provide significant Day One benefits to early adopters, including saving pedestrian lives.”

Public and private partners on the U-M project are: Ford, Toyota, Qualcomm, the City of Ann Arbor, Continental, Iteris, WSP, P3Mobility, Econolite and Purdue University.

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.