SAFETY

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.

Today’s Top Stories

Safety

A screenshot of a facebook post made to the parents of Macie Hill....
Mark Jones

Father of girl who died in Kaysville parade is thankful for those who helped

An 8-year-old girl died Monday in an accident during the Kaysville Fourth of July Parade. Her father is thankful for all who assisted his daughter.
1 day ago
break car window dog...
Mark Jones

Dog dies after being left in hot car for more than an hour

A dog died Tuesday after being left in a hot car for more than an hour, according to Salt Lake County Animal Services.
1 day ago
A house in Spanish Fork was on fire late Monday night....
Mark Jones

Spanish Fork house catches fire after fireworks not properly extinguished

Officials said a house fire in Spanish Fork was a result of recently used fireworks not being disposed of properly. No serious injuries were reported.
1 day ago
Utah Highway Patrol stopped 4,937 vehicles over the Fourth of July weekend....
Mark Jones

Busy Fourth of July weekend for Utah Highway Patrol

In statistics released Tuesday, the Utah Highway Patrol says its Troopers made contact with 4,937 drivers over the Fourth of July weekend, making it a busy one.
1 day ago
Utah County Sheriff's Office badge....
Mark Jones

As one blaze is nearly contained, new Soldier Fire starts up

The Soldier Fire started up Tuesday in Utah County. According to Utah Fire Info, the blaze is near Highway 68 at milepost 15.
1 day ago
The Kaysville Fourth of July Parade is canceled after a medical emergency....
Kira Hoffelmeyer

8-year-old girl in critical condition after getting injured at Kaysville parade

KAYSVILLE, Utah — An 8-year-old has been critically injured during the Kaysville City Fourth of July parade. Kaysville Police say the girl was taken to a hospital for her injuries. This happened at 175 S. Main St in Kaysville. It’s unclear if the child fell off the float and was hit, or if she was […]
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Conversant cars, roads likely in ‘The Future of Your Commute’