The University of Michigan recently announced its support of a proposed ruling by the U.S. Department of Transportation which would require wireless car-to-car communication in new vehicle models.

The University has been studying connected vehicle technologies like car-to-car communication since 2012, first through the University Transportation Research Institute through the U.S. Department of Transportation-funded Safety Pilot Model Deployment, and more recently with the addition of the Mobility Transformation Center in 2013, a center focused on advancing the development of automated vehicles. The MTC has partnered with Toyota, Ford, General Motors, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance and the Ann Arbor Public Schools. Additionally, both the UMTRI and MTC are collaborating on the Ann Arbor Connected Vehicle Test Environment, building on the Safe Pilot connect vehicle project.

Both institutes also work closely with Mcity, a project developed by the MTC and the Michigan Department of Transportation that entails a 32-acre area on North Campus that simulates real-world driving scenarios and allows both government and University researchers to test new developments in auto technology.

The DOT has recently galvanized support for revolutionary auto technology by proposing a rule that would require car-to-car communication in new models through wireless technology, something that institutions such as the UMTRI and MTC have been working towards through their work on the AACVTE.

Jim Sayer, director of the UMTRI, said in a press release the proposed rule will aid the University’s initiatives and research into advanced auto technology.

“This announcement is consistent with our plans to expand and accelerate our ongoing deployments of connected vehicles in the city of Ann Arbor, and throughout southeast Michigan,” he wrote. “Connected vehicle research conducted at the UM indicates a reduction in unimpaired vehicle crashes by up to 80 percent. This technology will dramatically reduce fatalities and injuries.”

In a statement, U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D–Mich.) expressed his support for the DOT’s legislative efforts to implement the types of technology that are currently being tested by the University.

“I’m pleased that DOT is continuing to build on their efforts to bring advanced vehicle technologies to our nation’s roads by requiring vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology to be included in all new light-duty vehicle models,” Peters wrote. “This technology could dramatically reduce the number of accidents and traffic fatalities on our roads, especially when combined with vehicle-to-infrastructure communication technology and automated vehicles.”

According to an early estimate by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 17,775 people died in motor vehicle crashes during the first half of 2016 alone, a 10.4 percent increase of fatalities from the previous year. NHTSA has projected that the technology currently being developed by the University could prevent more than 1,000 auto-related fatalities each year.

John Maddox, previous assistant director of the MTC, said in a press release the efforts have great potential impact on the future of transportation.

“The technology stands to revolutionize the way we drive,” Maddox said.

The DOT has also established a Center for Connected and Automated Transportation, led by the University, for the Midwest region. The center will work to conduct research on mobility policy, advanced roadways, and automated systems and educate student engineers and technicians to join the autonomous transportation workforce.

Sayer said the center will expand the University’s ability to look into automated vehicle technology.

“This center provides yet another opportunity at the University of Michigan to conduct groundbreaking research on connected and automated vehicles, and to understand future transportation needs and challenges,” he said. “We look forward to the many benefits it will bring to the community, the state and the region.” 

This article has been updated to clarify the relationship between the UMTRI, the MTC and Mcity and has clarified John Maddox as the previous assistant director of the MTC.

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