Some of the latest connected-car technology showcased by General Motors isn’t being developed inside its technical center in Warren, in suburban Detroit. It’s being developed on the public streets nearby.
Along with state and county transportation agencies, the company has outfitted traffic lights at two intersections near its facility in Warren, Michigan, with technology that transmits signal information to vehicles, whose drivers can then better avoid situations where they either need to brake abruptly or race through a busy intersection while the light’s still yellow.
So far, certain Cadillac CTS sedans in the company’s test fleet are equipped to receive the real-time information, which arrives via a Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) frequency. But like many competitors, GM has big ambitions for the vehicle-to-infrastructure technology.
The federal government is in the final stages of crafting rules that would mandate that all new vehicles carry equipment for enabling DSRC communications; among other things, the system can deliver critical safety messages and information on road conditions and potential hazards.
The proposed rules are centered on communication among vehicles, but V2I communication—between vehicles and infrastructure, such as traffic lights—remains an important component of the plan, especially when considering the long-awaited $1 trillion in federal infrastructure spending that could be on the horizon.
Former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) chief David Strickland, now chief counsel of the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, extolled the potential of V2I technology during a House subcommittee hearing earlier this month.
“Ultimately, tying infrastructure in, you can let road users know about changes ahead with congestion, learn about hazards, preplan, or offer other benefits,” he said. “Like if you’re driving home late at night and there’s no oncoming traffic, you’re sitting at a red light with nobody coming. We’re going to automatically change it to green so you can keep moving.”
Automakers aren’t waiting for the federal government to deploy similar systems. General Motors, among others, already offers vehicle-to-vehicle features as standard on the 2017 CTS sedan in the U.S. and Canada.
Competitors already have deployed vehicle-to-infrastructure integrations. In certain geographical areas, in certain new models, some Audi drivers can receive a countdown on in-car displays that shows how much time remains until a traffic light turns green. Audi, like GM, is working on similar technology that would alert motorists of the optimal speed necessary to reach a light when it’s green. BMW offers a system that allows motorists to receive similar information on their smartphones.
GM is testing its V2I systems on traffic signals located on Mound Road at the 12 Mile and 13 Mile intersections in Warren. There’s an additional signal located inside the GM Technical Center’s boundary equipped with the control technology.