August's top stories: intelligent vehicles, traffic information and national funding
August saw a number of major road funding packages announced across the world, while testing for next-generation traffic and vehicle systems got underway. Road Traffic Technology wraps up the key headlines from August 2012.
US highway projects received a welcome boost at the beginning of August, as the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced it had received $363m under the Surface Transportation Extension Act to carry out improvements, rehabilitation works and safety technology installations across the country.
The funds will be passed out to states and other authorities to implement their own projects; the FHWA received more than 1,500 applications for funding, representing around $2.5bn. FHWA administrator Victor Mendez said the flood of applications demonstrated 'a clear need for increased infrastructure investment'.
The march towards intelligent vehicles continues with new tests being carried out by the Ford Motor Company in Germany. The four-year trial is being carried out on a fleet of 120 cars that are connected to each other wirelessly, with the systems able to detect and avoid potential collisions.
The €53m safety tech project is called 'Safe Intelligent Mobility - Testfield (SimTD)' and is being funded by the Germany Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, as well as the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
A new UK Highways Agency pilot is aiming to improve real-time traffic information for users and traffic monitors. The new system takes data from mobile devices and vehicle tracking systems to achieve more accurate and up-to-date information, which expected to improve pre-emptive anti-congestion methods.
The England-wide pilot comes after the successful trial of a new traffic information system on the M25 motorway and its feeder routes.
Autonomous emergency braking (AEB) systems could be compulsory throughout the European Union by 2014. The European Commission looks set to make AEB mandatory for all new cars after a study revealed that the technology could reduce collisions by 27% and save up to 80,000 lives a year.
The technology could be as effective at saving money as it would be at saving lives. European Commission official Phillipe Jean told Gizmag that a compulsory AEB system could, through reduced post-crash congestion, represent an economic benefit of around €100m in Germany alone.
India continues to flex its financial muscles in South-East Asia as it provided a $500m loan to neighbouring Myanmar (Burma) to start building a 3,200km trilateral highway linking India, Myanmar and Thailand, improving trade and economic development in all three countries.
India's ambassador to Thailand Anil Wadhwa told The Nation that the highway would initially link India to Myanmar down as far as Mandalay, eventually connecting to a highway leading into Thailand. The project will reportedly form an east-west economic corridor, connecting India with Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.
Just as Europe considers making crash avoidance technology mandatory, the US begins a new technology test of its own. The US Department of Transportation has started a 3,000-vehicle study of wirelessly connected cars with the same vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication devices as are being tested elsewhere.
The pilot will last a year and aims to prove that the technology can reduce crashes and improve general traffic flow.
New Zealand has revealed its transport spending plans up to 2015, with around $9bn being allocated to the country's road network. The New Zealand Transport Authority (NZTA) has said it would spend the money on road projects to drive economic growth, improve safety and deliver value for money.
About $4bn of the funds will be spent on state highways, while $3.2bn will be allocated to local roads and $1.3bn to public transport projects. These three areas are getting respective financial boosts of 7%, 14% and 21% compared to the 2009-2012 period.
TomTom won a major contract in August, snagging a ten-year deal with Berlin's traffic information operator VMZ Berlin in Germany to provide real-time traffic information to the city and the surrounding Brandenburg region.
TomTom's HD Flow software will be used to gather and visualise traffic information in the region to improve traffic flow and data. "We believe that traffic flow and road network utilisation in the region will be significantly improved by TomTom's accurate and up-to-date information," said VMZ Berlin managing director Reinhard Giehler.