SCIENCE + TECHNOLOGY

Conversant cars, roads likely in ‘The Future of Your Commute’

May 23, 2018, 8:00 AM | Updated: May 25, 2018, 8:38 am

Follow @kslpetersamore...

Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series on the future of driving in Utah.

SALT LAKE CITY — Memorial Day weekend marks the start of vacation driving season, and as you sit behind the wheel on a long trip, you may wonder how much “smarter” cars and roads may get in the future.

In a perfect world, “smart vehicles” will reduce crashes and improve traffic flows. But the technology is far from perfect.

On May 12, the driver of a Tesla Model S, in semi-autonomous mode, sped at 60 mph into the back of a firetruck in South Jordan.

“That high of speed into a vehicle that’s stopped, especially a larger vehicle, she’s very lucky she didn’t have more serious injuries,” South Jordan Police Sgt. Sam Winkler said.

The woman suffered a broken foot, but days later, investigators found she used the car improperly and she received a citation.

Her Tesla ratted her out.

“About 20 minutes prior to the crash, the vehicle indicated that the driver removed her hands from the vehicle’s steering wheel, multiple times, more than a dozen times within that 20 minutes,” Winkler said.

Even if cars on autopilot lead to deadly crashes, like in Arizona and California recently, the automakers will decide what to feature inside the cockpit.

“We are having conversations with (automakers) about what they would like, and we have had conversations about what we would like back from them,” said Blaine Leonard, technology and innovation engineer with the Utah Department of Transportation.

Leonard has already pioneered a system to have traffic signals on an 11-mile stretch Redwood Road talk to Utah Transit Authority buses.

“If (a bus) is behind schedule, it sends a message to the traffic signal that says just that,” he said. “‘I’m behind schedule. Can you help me?’ The traffic signal thinks about whether it can give it a little extra green time.”

Perhaps the next step is “platooning,” Leonard said. Smart technology would send signals into vehicles that would set speeds and distances through heavy traffic and construction zones.

“We could put a lot more cars closer together at a constant speed going down that freeway lane,” he said.

Leonard suggests drivers would opt into that “public” system, or perhaps a private one that could tell them what is happening three cars — or semitrailers — ahead of them.

“Your car would know there’s a hard braking going on ahead of it, and you can take evasive action and brake before you even see brake lights, preventing a crash.”

UDOT constantly monitors data-driven safeness of Utah roads. Computer screens filled with pinpoints, graphs and charts tell Traffic and Safety Director Robert Miles where his agency could, for example, improve quality of roads and add crosswalks.

It could also “help educate people on what’s going on, on the roadways, where we have problems with people not buckling up, or people driving too quickly,” Miles said.

Data collection into the system is fast.

“Within three months, we feel like we have 95 percent of the crashes in there,” Miles said. “In the past, it could have taken a year, or a year and a half, to do that.”

Both Miles and Leonard remind us that human error is to blame in 94 percent of all crashes, especially the deadly ones.

“We think we are better drivers than we actually are,” Leonard said. “So we need to take out that human error.”

And as uncomfortable as that is, “we’re going to have to gradually get used to, and trust, various systems,” he warned.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Science + Technology

A lone American flag waves in the morning breeze Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2002, at the Bonneville Salt F...

Allessandra Harris

Water may be the solution to saving the salt flats

With the Bonneville Salt Flats eroding, newly discovered research may have found a way to save them.

1 day ago

fighter jet...

Sam Herrera

High-altitude balloon intercepted over Utah

After intercepting the balloon over Utah airspace, NORAD found that the balloon didn't pose a threat but said that they would keep tracking it.

1 day ago

utah capitol pictured, a new law centers adoption legal expenses open records utah...

Curt Gresseth

Bill creating Utah AI lab advances, would test tech, prevent missteps

SB 149 would create an AI lab and test technology while protecting the public in Utah.

2 days ago

North American hospitals are seeing a major increase -- 416% over the last two decades -- in teen m...

Alexandrea Bonilla

Decades-long study shows increase in eating disorders among young males

The study showed hospitalizations for young males with eating disorders were up 139%, and even higher in young teens.

2 days ago

woman with a therapeutic device on her head to treat depression...

LAURA UNGAR

A brain pacemaker helped a woman with crippling depression. It may soon be available to more people

Researchers say deep brain stimulation, or DBS — could eventually help many of the nearly 3 million Americans with treatment-resistance depression.

3 days ago

In this image from television the Genesis space capsule, which had orbited the sun for more than th...

Britt Johnson

Space capsule to land in West Desert

A space capsule is scheduled to land in the desert west of Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 21.

3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Conversant cars, roads likely in ‘The Future of Your Commute’