Nation's first automated highway system demonstrated in San Diego

Dec. 28, 2000
The transformation of the I­p;15 high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes into the nation's first demonstration of automated highway system (AHS) technologies began during a kick-off ceremony at the site in San Diego. The automated highway system concept employs technology that enables cars to drive themselves.

The ceremony signified the beginning of work for the National Automated Highway System Consortium's (NAHSC) Demonstration '97 where the technical feasibility of driver-assisted technologies will be demonstrated on a 7.6-mile segment of I­p;15 in August 1997. The first magnetic markers needed for the demonstration were installed in the pavement during the ceremony. The magnets, spaced every meter, will work in concert with a traffic management center, in-vehicle devices and other field equipment to keep AHS-equipped vehicles in-lane, properly spaced, and guided toward their destination while sensing and avoiding obstacles.

The ceremony coincides with the 40th anniversary of the Federal-Aid Highway Act, signed into law by President Eisenhower on June 29, 1956 (see Roads & Bridges, June 1996). The act authorized the construction of the 42,500-mile Interstate Highway System, a network of roads linking major U.S. urban centers. The next major performance upgrade of our nation's existing transportation system may be the integration of intelligent transportation systems into an automated highway system. The AHS project has received significant commitments for support by leaders in government, industry and academia, according to the consortium.

In his program remarks, Ed Mertz, general manager, Buick Motor Division of General Motors, noted that automated highways will spark development of a "whole new class of vehicles" and help solve pressing transportation problems-traffic accidents and delays, crowded roads and the huge expense of building new roads in urban areas to relieve traffic congestion.

According to the consortium, the AHS concept arises out of the need to improve safety and efficiency on America's highways at a time when increasing traffic and population are straining the urban roadways and building additional lanes is becoming more difficult. Without advanced transportation technologies, America's highways will only continue to become more congested due to expected population increases of 50% by 2050, and kilometers traveled by vehicles to double by 2020.

Advanced transportation technologies will assist in reducing driver errors, the cause of 90% of traffic accidents. In some cases, a vehicle may enter a dedicated automated lane and the automated system would assume control of the vehicle, including the steering, braking and throttle.
"San Diego is on the threshold of this exciting partnership of technologies and highway innovations," said Jan Goldsmith, California state assemblyman. "These advancements potentially promise to make the driving experience safer, easier, more convenient and less time consuming.

A unique public-private partnership between the NAHSC and the Federal Highway Administration has been formed to drive the automated highway from vision to reality. Other NAHSC Core Participants include Bechtel Corporation, Caltrans, Hughes, Carnegie Mellon University, General Motors, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Delco Electronics, Lockheed Martin and University of California Partners for Advanced Transit and Highways Program.

The NAHSC was formed in response to a U.S. DOT request for applications to conduct systems design, feasibility, definition, demonstrations and prototyping of a safe, reliable, cost-effective automated highway system capable of substantially improving vehicle throughput along high-demand urban and rural traffic corridors. The goals of the NAHSC are to specify, develop and demonstrate a prototype AHS by the year 2002 and to seek national consensus on AHS design and deployment. Demonstration '97 is the first "real world" application of the technology developed under the sponsorship of NAHSC.

About the Author

David Banasiak