Nation's first automated highway system demonstrated in San Diego

David Banasiak / December 28, 2000

The transformation of the I&shyp;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 I&shyp;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.

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