Photo: Cadillac

Vehicle-to-infrastructure tech (V2I) is a tool often touted by some automakers as being key to making the roads safer by allowing cars to communicate with traffic signals and the like. Late last month, General Motors and the state of Michigan announced they had taken tiny, but crucial, steps on the V2I front, with one of the first infrastructure projects of its kind in the U.S to make that sort of communication a reality.

Without a significant investment in boosting the actual infrastructure on the road, it would be virtually impossible to achieve the benefits V2v and V2I tech could achieve. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for instance, estimates up to 80 percent of crashes not attributed to driver impairment could be mitigated by implementing V2V tech across the industry.

Advertisement

That’s why the projects here from GM and Michigan’s transportation department stand out.

‘Technology is Transforming ... How We Drive’

If you happen to live in Metro Detroit, you might be aware of a monstrous, $1 billion project to revamp a long stretch of I-75 that won’t be completed until 2030. While that’s a headache of its own, there is some bright spots amid the orange barrels: Michigan’s transportation department recently said that part of the project will host one of the first “connected work zones” to test V2I communication.

Advertisement

A 3-mile stretch of the highway will use advanced all-weather lane markings and retroreflective signs with smart sign technology, along with Dedicated Short-Range Communication Devices, which the Michigan Department of Transportation says will “allow for redundancy and greater machine vision, as well as improved driver safety on the roadways.”

In announcing the project, MDOT recognized the need to invest in new infrastructure in order to make autonomous and connected cars work, a sign that bureaucracy is catching up to technology.

“Signs, pavement markings, temporary traffic controls and vehicle identification systems need to be designed and implemented to pave the way for the data-driven environment of the cars and roadways of tomorrow,” MDOT says.

Cadillac CTS Talking To Traffic Signals In Michigan

The project follows GM’s recent announcement that V2v tech will be equipped on the new Cadillac CTS. Vehicle-to-vehicle communication (V2V) is regarded by automakers as a short-term goal to increase safety on the road by alerting drivers to potential hazards. The technology for cars to ‘talk’ to each other is an important stepping stone to truly autonomous cars. While promising, it’ll only benefit other CTS owners on the road; until V2V is mandated across the board for carmakers, like the government wants, it’ll probably remain that way for some time. (Lexus inadvertently clowned on its own drivers in an April Fool’s joke for this exact reason.)

And on Tuesday, General Motors announced that several development models of the Cadillac CTS were successfully alerted to when signals from traffic signals were set to change at two intersections near GM’s facilities in Metro Detroit. With help of Michigan’s transportation department, the project has led to traffic signals alerting cars using a Dedicated Short Range Communication system—meaning it could transmit about 300 meters—to alert the driver that they might run a red light, Cadillac said in a news release.

“This alert helps avoid the dangerous decision to either brake abruptly or accelerate through a busy intersection,” the news release stated.

It’s similar to what Audi announced last fall, when it rolled out a feature for 2017 Q7 and A4 models to communicate with traffic signals. The vehicle’s don’t transmit a VIN number or identifying information, in order to protect the driver’s privacy, Cadillac says. So, if a car runs a red light, Cadillac says “the traffic signal may be able to say someone ran a red light, but will not be able to say who or what vehicle.”

Advertisement

An employee with Michigan’s transportation department told Automotive News that, for now, the tech is focused on red light warnings, but in the future, it could be expanded to warn vehicles on anything from congestion to bad weather ahead.

Whether this sort of thing becomes ubiquitous across the industry is still unclear. Bloomberg recently reported that the government’s mandates to require V2V on vehicles has been met with some resistance in Washington D.C. The idea is to have all new light-vehicles come equipped with V2V tech by early next decade. The proposal, as it stands, is reportedly still under review.