Autonomous Vehicle Gets Tested to Improve Road Safety

Nov. 6, 2023
Officials are hoping to develop solutions to common problems arising in the technology’s deployment

Virginia Tech researchers drove a 2022 Ford hybrid F-150 to a northern section of the 395 Express Lanes and put the truck’s automation mode to the test.

The truck was equipped with sensors, cameras and a touch screen display on the passenger window. It traveled at highway speeds through a series of driving scenarios: evading debris, changing lanes out of the path of emergency vehicles and pulling over during a simulated stop by a state trooper.

Officials have been using the stretch of toll road outside the nation’s capital this fall for self-driving demonstrations, hoping to develop solutions to common problems arising in the technology’s deployment.

“These systems are coming relatively quickly, and we are trying to get ahead of them, showing how automation can overcome challenging problems,” said Zac Doerzaph, executive director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, which received a $7.5 million federal grant in 2019 to conduct the research.

Researchers are looking to see how the automated driving systems (ADS) respond when confronted with public safety interactions, such as traffic stops, checkpoints, emergency vehicles and road hazards.

During a recent round of demonstrations, the truck in automation mode responded smoothly to road hazards, moving to the left lane when vehicles were on the shoulder or debris was spotted. But it also encountered technical glitches that led to the computer system freezing up at a mock work zone, unable to drive between the orange cones.

Virginia Tech’s Mike Mollenhauer, who is leading the program, said it is a work in progress but essential to the future of the evolving technology. The research, which is expected to conclude next year, is looking at how technological and policy changes can overcome problems.

“We’re kind of headed in the wrong direction,” he said, adding that he expects research can help find solutions.

The goal, officials say, is to improve road safety.

Every year in the United States, over 40,000 people are killed on roadways. Some transportation experts and researchers say that number could be reduced with better integration of automated driving technology.


Source: MSN

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