Alexandria, Va. – Authorization to begin testing connected vehicles and vehicle automation technologies on the 495 and 95 Express Lanes was approved earlier this week by the Commonwealth Transportation Board. The Commissioner of Highways agreed to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration and Transurban, the operator of the 495 and 95 Express Lanes, to study how connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) may improve safety and mobility. The program will enable the partnership to perform research, and develop and trial demonstration tests on the Express Lanes to examine real-world applications for the developing technologies. Program development is scheduled to begin later this month with on-road tests beginning as soon as summer 2018.
“As the pioneers of automated vehicle-to-roadway technologies, we are positioned to continue to lead the way in breakthrough research and conduct new testing that has the potential to drastically change the way we approach travel on the highways,” Acting Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Walter “Butch” Waidelich said. “Ultimately, it’s about benefiting America’s drivers by keeping them safe and easing their travels out on the road.”
“This is a new era for the Virginia Department of Transportation,” said Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne. “We must do all we can to embrace the roadway needs of rapidly evolving automotive technology. This partnership will help answer critical questions as transportation agencies consider approaches to handling the current technology alterations and disruptions occurring with the transition to CAV.”
“As a long-term partner to Virginia and the Federal Highway Administration, Transurban is committed to improving the transportation network in the Greater Washington area,” said Leigh Petschel, Vice President of Operations, Transurban. “We look forward to safely trialing this technology on the Express Lanes while helping Virginia maintain its position as a leader in supporting innovative transportation solutions.”
The program partners will test electronics, information processing and communications technology to better understand the practical application of connected and autonomous vehicles in a real-world environment, with the ultimate goal to increase efficiency across road networks. The research will test:
· cooperative adaptive cruise control, that allows automated vehicles to safely follow each other in closer proximity;
· technology to seamlessly enable automated lane changing and merging into traffic; and
· speed harmonization, including direct vehicle interaction
The Express Lanes provide an ideal testing ground for CAVs because the roadway and lane markings are well maintained, there is minimal debris on the pavement and full camera coverage is available at the dedicated Express Lanes operations center.