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UDOT testing new technology on some of the state’s most hazardous roads

The Utah Department of Transportation has teamed up with Panasonic to deploy a network of next-generation radio pods along some Utah highway corridors. (PHOTO: Parleys Canyon Bridge, courtesy of UDOT)

SALT LAKE CITY — UDOT is beginning a five-year program to digitally connect cars and state roads. The goal is to relay information quickly about dangerous driving conditions. 

UDOT testing new technology

UDOT is teaming up with Panasonic to deploy a network of next-generation radio pods along some Utah highway corridors. Officials say the V2X (vehicle-to-everything) communications technology is what makes the system work. It allows vehicles to communicate to one another and the outside world.

The pods will gather information from passing vehicles, process the data and send out important messages. For example, warning drivers of unsafe conditions or road closures due to accidents. So far, 80 roadside radio units have been installed. UDOT officials say they’re launching a five-year program to deploy and test V2X systems on some of the state’s most hazardous roadways, including Parleys Canyon and Big Cottonwood Canyon.

“The real key is the long-term plan to improve safety on our roads,” explains Blaine Leonard, Utah Department of Transportation technology engineer. “This is a technology that is unique in that while we’re still waiting for coming autonomous vehicles, V2X is here now, usable now and ready to give us a benefit.”

Remaining questions

One unknown is how drivers will receive the messages. According to Leonard, it could be a text that appears on a dashboard or touchscreen display. It also could potentially be a voice message that plays through a vehicle’s audio system.

“Today when a car crashes on the highway because of an aggressive move or poor conditions, somebody has to call 911,” Panasonic Vice President Chris Armstrong tells the Deseret News.

“We know in Utah that can be as long as 10-15 minutes before traffic operations is notified and can react. If they get notified in a second, they can reroute traffic, help with emergency response time. When you know what’s happening fast you can take action and alert people fast.”