Researchers at San Antonio's Southwest Research Institute today will present a high tech solution to the seemingly unsolvable problem of wrong way drivers on area roadways, 1200 WOAI's Michael Board reports.
Lynne Randolph, Principal Engineer of SWRI's Transportation Management Systems Division will tell the annual Texas Transportation Institute conference in San Antonio that the answer lies in technology.
She says what is called 'connected vehicle technology' would be hooked up to sensors in the highway and would allow officials to immediately disable any vehicle which began entering a highway going in the wrong direction.
"This is where the vehicles talk not only to each other but also to roadside equipment," Randolph said.
She says technology which is already being installed on some cars would send signals to sensors embedded in the roadway. It would give transportation control officials a picture in real time of traffic patterns, where bottlenecks are developing, and where a motorist is attempting to get onto the highway going the wrong direction.
"They use some of this for other preventative measures, like sounding an alarm to let the driver know that the car is going out of a lane," she aid.
She says disabling vehicles instantly is still a ways in the future, but she says as cars get smarter, the technology to finally stop wrong way drivers is getting closer.
"It's still a stationary problem, but at least it’s not a moving vehicle coming toward you and causing an incident," she said.
"The technology will allow that, whether policy will allow that is another matter."
She says the Federal Highway Administration has just approved a measure to ask for legislation to require carmakers to place the full suite of 'connected vehicle technology' in all new cars.
She says the same technology may allow messages to be instantly flashed onto smart screens inside vehicles, which are becoming standard in Ford' Sync, Cadillac's CUE, and other in car navigation and entertainment systems.
Randolph once and for all shot down the common myth that installing 'wrong way spikes' on freeway exit ramps, similar to the spikes installed at the exists to rental car lots, would successfully deal with the problem of wrong way drivers in a 'low tech' way.
"The spikes are designed for vehicles that are moving slowly," she said. "A vehicle moving quickly, like we do on the highways, crossing over the spikes going in the correct direction can still cause damage to your vehicle."