Emerging Wrong-Way Driver Alert Systems

May 3, 2024
Technologies showing promising signs of stopping head-on collisions

The devastating impact of a head-on collision often happens in darkness, on a highway, at high speed. Over 10 years, at least 650 people died and another 800 were injured in collisions involving wrong-way drivers on Texas roads, according to data from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).

Across the United States, wrong-way crashes kill about 400 people every year. New technology is showing promise that drivers could soon be warned of the oncoming danger, giving them enough time to move toward safety.

Two emerging solutions, including one developed by family and friends of a man killed by a wrong-way driver in Collin County, Texas, and another pioneered by a major global technology firm. Both technologies show promising signs that more drivers could someday be spared from collisions that are so often deadly because the impact happens head-on.

One such crash two years ago on the President George Bush Turnpike motivated a group of friends to seek solutions.

Traffic camera video from that night showed a driver stopped on the side of the road. The driver suddenly lurched the vehicle forward, made a U-turn, and then re-entered the highway going in the wrong direction.

The Bush Turnpike is one of a growing number of U.S. roads with directional sensors and cameras that can detect a wrong-way vehicle. On that night in 2022, the system alerted a North Texas Tollway Authority command center in seconds, which then quickly notified the police.

While Texas State Troopers raced to locate the car, the wrong-way driver barreled down the highway. Traffic cameras captured the final seconds before the vehicle slammed into another car head-on.

Investigators said the woman driving the wrong way had a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit. The devastating crash killed her as well as the driver of the other vehicle, 41-year-old Michael James Jackson, who was on his way home to his wife Wendy.

"He had the biggest heart. And he was just a kind soul. And he was just so undeserving of this," said Wendy Jackson, in a statement.

Wendy is pushing for change and is working with her husband's friends on a solution. Many of Michael's friends are engineers who worked with him when he led a technology innovation team at AT&T's headquarters in Dallas and are now scattered across some of the nation's biggest tech companies.

"We need to make the people that are in harm's way aware so that they can take action to protect themselves," said Michael Linneman, Michael Jackson's friend and former co-worker, in a statement.

Linneman believes mobile phone technology can be a key. He discovered state transportation departments like the TxDOT already have the authority to issue alerts over phones through an existing federal system -- FEMA's "Integrated Public Alert and Warning System," or IPAWS.

The IPAWS system is the same one used to deliver AMBER Alerts and other emergency notifications to phones.

"Similar to how you would get a weather alert if there was a flash flood on a roadway that you're heading towards. That same technology could be used to display the alert for a wrong-way driver detected in your area," Linneman said.

In places like Detroit, that concept of directing alerts to only the vehicles in danger is already proving possible in the real world. Engineers at German technology company Bosch took have already equipped test vehicles with a cloud-based wrong-way driver warning system they pioneered.

The Bosch system uses GPS data to detect every step of a driver's movement near freeway entrance and exit ramps to make sure they're headed the right way. As the car enters a geo-fenced area around those ramps, the GPS data is analyzed in the cloud to verify the car's direction of travel.

"There is a ping every second when you are close to these ramps," said Bhavana Chakraborty, Bosch director of engineering, in a statement.

If the test vehicle had been going the wrong way, the system would also alert other drivers within six miles of the danger, provided they have the Bosch software on board or that their phones have an app that uses that software.

The Bosch system is already available in some cars in Europe. In one year, the company said it has detected and warned more than 600 wrong-way drivers and alerted 6,000 nearby drivers of the danger. On a real-time map, Bosch reported they could see drivers receive a warning and then turn around after receiving the alert.

"The technology is there. It's just getting the authorization and getting the right people in place who can allow us to do this," said Wendy Jackson in a statement.

A TxDOT spokesperson said that while the agency currently does not use Wireless Emergency Alerts for wrong-way drivers they do have engineers reviewing the technology.

TxDOT did not provide a timeline for when they would finish their review or decide on a course of action.


Source: NBCFW.com

Sponsored Recommendations

The Science Behind Sustainable Concrete Sealing Solutions

Extend the lifespan and durability of any concrete. PoreShield is a USDA BioPreferred product and is approved for residential, commercial, and industrial use. It works great above...

Proven Concrete Protection That’s Safe & Sustainable

Real-life DOT field tests and university researchers have found that PoreShieldTM lasts for 10+ years and extends the life of concrete.

Revolutionizing Concrete Protection - A Sustainable Solution for Lasting Durability

The concrete at the Indiana State Fairgrounds & Event Center is subject to several potential sources of damage including livestock biowaste, food/beverage waste, and freeze/thaw...

The Future of Concrete Preservation

PoreShield is a cost-effective, nontoxic alternative to traditional concrete sealers. It works differently, absorbing deep into the concrete pores to block damage from salt ions...