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Imagine a world where you step inside your car and it—not you—does the driving. Such was the vision of young Ging Ging Liu Fernandez ’98 as a girl being shuttled round by her mom to school and other activities. Although it sounds like science fic- tion, much of the necessary technology now exists. Some of you may have held it in your hand. From traffic cameras and wireless networks to global posi-


tioning systems and cell phones, many familiar tools support the field of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), which is poised to transform both our driving experience and our world. It’s a technological wave surging the nation and Fernandez is delighted to be riding it. “With a background in communications engineering, ITS


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was the perfect match for me,” Fernandez said. “I wasn’t great at designing new devices or coming up with new theory, but I love technology and there is so much potential for improving our lives through making transportation more efficient through applications of technology.” The breadth of ITS is astonishing. It includes systems for traffic signal timing, computer-aided dispatch, on-board vehicle navigation, vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to- infrastructure integration, electronic tolling, and even collision-avoidance technologies. In short, it is an “infostructure” for the infrastructure. IntelliDrive, a federal program to


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create a nationwide intelligent trans- portation network, represents one of the largest


Snowstorm on 118.


Downloading data from roadside sensors.


Sig alert on Highway 60.


research and roll- outs of the technol- ogy in America. The system will al- low vehicles to send a n d


receive anonymous information—such as hazard warnings and traffic conditions—between each other and the surrounding in- frastructure. Equipped with an on-board unit that houses a processor, GPS receiver and Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC)


Available in test stretches of road- way in Michigan and California, Intellidrive technology could begin deployment as early as 2013…


transceiver, vehicles cull information such as speed, position and braking from an array of internal sensors and transmit the data to other vehicles and roadside sensors. Fernandez helped with IntelliDrive’s vehicle-to-vehicle com- munication testing from 2007 to 2008, creating sample applica- tions to showcase what’s possible when vehicles report to each other key information about accidents, travel delays and road conditions. Such data can help drivers make better decisions, such as changing routes or schedules to avoid hazardous condi- tions or traffic jams, Fernandez said. It also helps traffic man- agers to reroute traffic and adjust signal light timing to reduce congestion, she said. All Electronic Tolling (AET), another ITS application, also


smooths traffic flow by replacing toll plazas with gantry-mount- ed sensors that communicate with passing vehicles’ transponders or motorists’ mobile phones to record and collect toll fees. For vehicles without mobile accounts, the system uses cameras to snap photos of vehicle license plates and mails invoices to the registered owners. Fernandez worked on a San Francisco Bay area AET project


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Highway 18 closed. Detour to 110 east.


this year, studying traffic flow simulations to determine which payment methods (mobile phones, pre-paid credit cards, etc.) work best to ensure both accurate billing and efficient traffic flow. Such research supports sustainability, because idling vehicles not only waste time but also produce more emissions. In fact, an Information Technology and Innovation Foundation report states an intelligent transportation network can drop carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent. Already available in test stretches of roadway in Michigan and California, IntelliDrive technology could begin deployment as early as 2013, but government ac- tion may be required to speed the process.


Transferring data to roadside sensors.


H a r v e y Mu d d C o l l e g e F A L L /WI N T E R 2 0 1 0


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