Utah Connected Program: Leveraging Connected and Autonomous Vehicles for Safety

  • Author: Laurel Schwartz
  • Date: February 22, 2024

Utah’s Department of Transportation (UDOT) is working to improve “Full Situational Awareness” with sensors like domain administration servers (DAS) and light detection and ranging (LiDar). Through this Connected Communities Program, they’re also preparing their transportation infrastructure to be compatible with connected vehicles (CV), with the goal of reducing roadway injuries and fatalities. According to the US Department of Transportation (DOT), CV technologies are “equipment, applications, or systems that use vehicle-to-everything communications to address safety, system efficiency, or mobility on our roadways” that strive to sense what living and non-living travelers are doing around the vehicle, identifying potential hazards.

In May 2023, DOT’s Federal Highway Administration awarded UDOT $5 million as part of their Advanced Transportation Technology and Innovation (ATTAIN) grant, funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. UDOT’s ATTAIN grant was awarded to eight innovative technology-based transit solution projects around the country.

Transit Signal Prioritization

UDOT’s Transportation Technology Group has focused their deployments on transit signal prioritization, snowplow preemption, curve speed and spot weather warnings, and signalized intersections. By using transit signal priority (TSP), systems that communicate between public transit vehicles and traffic signals, which prompt the signal to alter its timing to prioritize the public transit, they have improved reliability by 6% and decreased schedule deviation by 19%.

The Federal Highway Administration recently highlighted UDOT’s snowplow preemption system. By putting TSP units on snowplows, the system “can preempt an upcoming traffic signal when they are actively plowing, changing a red light to green to allow the snowplow to move through the intersection. This practice improves the efficiency of plowing operations and facilitates a faster removal of snow and ice from roadways,” the Federal Highway Weather Administration wrote in a management strategies fact sheet.

Distributed Acoustic Sensing

Ground vibrations can be an indication of crashes, rockfalls, and avalanches. “Fiber-optic distributed acoustic sensing. has proven to be a revolutionary technology for the detection of seismic and acoustic waves with ultralarge scale and ultrahigh sensitivity,” researchers explained in the journal Science Advances.

By strategically placing fiber optic sensors and carefully adjusting the system’s algorithms, the team is able to measure speeds and travel times.

Automated Vehicle Road Readiness

According to Consumer Reports, more than half of new cars have automated systems that can control steering and speed.  A recent study found that lane keep assist—a system that “performs automatic steering to prevent the vehicle from departing the lane”—reduced the overall number of crashes by as much as 60%.

Recognizing the value of these systems, UDOT surveyed 1,400 miles of their roads, conducting day and nighttime surveys to evaluate how well their lane markings are compatible with the cameras governing these technologies. Most markings, the team found, were adequate.

Lessons Learned

  • Deployment takes time. UDOT found that it took them 25 months to procure, test, deliver, install, and integrate new systems. Funding cycles and deciding locations of projects added additional time.
  • Syncing signals. TSP requires that systems communicate on the same radio frequencies. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently updated regulations to ensure consistency.
  • Build trust with automakers. Agencies should ensure that information they produce “is accurate, consistent, reliable, and secure.”


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