Here’s one way to improve road worker safety with V2X

The National Work Zone Awareness Week, coordinated by U.S. DOT’s Federal Highway Administration, drew our attention to how vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communications can vastly improve road worker safety.

A while back, we supported a Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) research effort by supplying our V2X roadside and onboard units in a work zone safety setting. In this case study, road maintenance workers wore VTTI’s V2X-enabled vests that warned them of cars passing nearby, and at the same time warned drivers of the V2X-equipped vehicles to drive carefully. VTTI, in partnership with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has deployed 11 roadside units in the Virginia Connected Corridor test bed in Northern Virginia and is already planning additional research efforts.

An exciting automation project using Commsignia’s devices at VTTI’s Division for Technology Implementation is related to work zone truck-mounted attenuator (TMA) construction vehicles. These large vehicles have crash cushions on the back to shadow dynamic work zones and protect those who are working on the shoulders. Even so, driving such a truck is a stressful job with a high risk of injury.

New technologies can help improve road worker safety

An automated vehicle is a great way to remove this stress and improve safety. VTTI is developing an autonomous system that allows the TMA truck to follow a lead vehicle on full automation, thus removing the human driver from a dangerous situation. By deploying a remote operator to one of its offices, VTTI plans to use low latency C-V2X and 4G LTE connections to oversee the work zone on a video stream and collect telemetry data from the autonomous vehicle.

The purpose of this system is to stop automatic operation if the operator sees that something is wrong or the autonomous system detects an obstacle which requires an operator to maneuver around. VTTI’s researchers will examine how C-V2X and 4G technologies can complement each other to provide a reliable connection between an autonomous vehicle platform and an operator.

VTTI is also working on another effort called the Smart Work Zone. This use case will extend VTTI’s Smart Vest capabilities to support C-V2X communications through a base station which will be connected to a C-V2X RSU, and it will be processing SAE J2735 BSM and PSM messages in order to alert both the connected vehicle and VRU that could be present on a work zone activity area.

We strongly believe that V2X makes road work zones safer, and VTTI’s work is a good example of this. If you are a highway operator or a transport tech researcher, contact our colleagues on how we can work together.

And, as a reminder to all drivers: 

Drive carefully near work zones 

Your attention can save lives.

Green light for safety on Virginia roads

Imagine yourself in your car. Do you feel the comfortable seat, the refreshing air conditioning, hear that great sound system? Now imagine yourself driving in the morning traffic, trying to catch every single green light to get there in time, avoiding road works on the way.

Different image, huh? 

This is exactly where high tech safety features such as vehicle communications come into the picture, to calm our nerves and increase our confidence behind the steering wheel. Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology means that cars talk with each other and with the infrastructure around them using standardized digital messages to help us get through the traffic as safely as possible. 

One of the great features of this technology helps us with the traffic lights. I like to drive smoothly, like flowing water in the riverbed, so I tried to memorize the timing of the traffic lights in my area, but the situation is just too random for this. Not to mention unfamiliar roads on which this approach doesn’t work at all.

The V2X deployment set up by Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), partnering with Commsignia, Audi, Traffic Technology Services, Qualcomm and American Tower Corp, provides a solution to catch those green lights. 

Commsignia’s roadside units are transmitting green light information using cellular V2X (C-V2X) communication technology in a standardized Time To Green message, so we can see a countdown to the green light. Audi Q8 SUVs already have this kind of Traffic Light Information service, but the cars used in the trial were retrofitted with C-V2X onboard units to increase the level of safety. 

C-V2X messages warn of oncoming red light violations which allows us to react quickly, before we get into a messed up situation.

Another way V2X can help is when lanes are closed due to road works. This is most risky for workers, countless fatal accidents happening every year. C-V2X-enabled vests warned staff in the work zone with sound and light alarms of the V2X-enabled Audi Q8s passing nearby, and a notification also appeared in the vehicles, saying: Drive carefully! 

We’re looking forward to many more deployments like this on the roads to have a safe and smooth drive everywhere. Now tell us, is it a better picture of how you want to imagine yourself in a car?

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