We knew that the US Department of Transportation was testing connected vehicle technology in the relatively small town of Ann Arbor, Michigan. But now that tech is getting a big test in a big city: New York.
This afternoon a group of city and federal officials announced the funding of a pilot project that will see one of the largest upgrades to the New York City street grid in a long while. The US Department of Transportation awarded the city (along with Wyoming and Florida) $42 million to outfit as many as 10,000 cars that the city owns with the technology it’s been developing in Ann Arbor for years—technology that will let these cars talk to each other, and to city infrastructure.
What, exactly, is this tech? It’s called Vehicle-to-Vehicle, which the government abbreviates to V2V.
The government started testing V2V in Ann Arbor in 2012, installing sensors on 3,000 cars in a collaboration with the University of Michigan. These sensors send out signals over a specific wireless spectrum band and also receive them from other vehicles, creating a network of communicating sensors that ping when there’s danger, whether it’s one car edging out of its lane without signaling, or a driver breaking without warning. A secondary form of the technology, called Vehicle-to-Infrastructure, does the same thing—but with sensors embedded in stop signs, traffic lights, and other pieces of road infrastructure.
The point of the program is to cut down on crashes and deaths, and it quickly expanded to 9,000 cars in Michigan. Last year, the government said it would eventually make V2V a requirement in all vehicles—and then, just this spring, US DOT secretary Anthony Foxx said he wanted to get the technology on the roads even sooner than planned, calling the push to get V2V into our cars “a race against time.” The fact that V2V depends on a wireless band that some in Congress were eager to open up to other uses—which would mean V2V would need some other dedicated band—didn’t help.
Today, it looks like Foxx’s push to get V2V on the roads is going ahead. He was present to announce one of the largest pilots of V2V yet: 10,000 cars, limos, and buses in New York City that will all be outfitted with sensors over the next year, as well as infrastructure sensors throughout Midtown.
New York’s own Department of Transportation competed with other cities around the country for the honor, and will be joined by two other recipients of the grant money. In Wyoming, the DOT will use the V2V system to study high-traffic corridors for trucking. In Tampa, it’ll be implemented to help study the city’s particularly bad traffic. According to the DOT, the program will even put a version of the V2V tech on pedestrians’ smartphones in Florida—helping cars’ own sensors anticipate where pedestrians are amidst bad traffic.
How noticeable will this new system be for you, the average New Yorker or Tampa resident driving to work in the morning? We’ll have to wait and see how the DOT plans to select vehicles (in Michigan, they asked for volunteers) to equip with V2V, but in general, it shouldn’t change how traffic looks at all—these sensors are designed to integrate seamlessly into the street grid, not completely revolutionize how people drive. And when it comes to getting thousands of drivers on board, that’s a good thing.
Image: Andrey Bayda
Contact the author at kelsey@Gizmodo.com.