With money for roads tight, tech could ease traffic pain

Technology could help ease traffic 

DALLAS -- Building or widening highways and roads takes time, construction headaches are inevitable, and finding the money for projects is always a pinch. Plus, with more and more people relocating to North Texas, drivers hoping for more concrete to maneuver should only expect traffic to grow even tighter in coming years.

However, there could be hope from a familiar source.

The world of technology has helped make things easier, more convenient, and more efficient in many walks of everyday life. Transportation departments hope it can do the same on the roads.

“We are always evolving and looking for that next bit of technology or that little edge that will make us better than we were yesterday,” said Ryan LaFontaine with the Texas Department of Transportation.

At the DalTrans Transportation Management Center in Mesquite, employees use cameras, road censors, and dynamic message signs to give drivers, law enforcement, and media up-to-the-second updates on traffic.

While building new highways might prove a difficult undertaking, TxDOT has plans to nearly double the amount of tech tools that could help drivers avoid delays when they happen.

TxDot Technology (DalTrans facility)

                                              Current    In 2018

Cameras                                  456          740

Dynamic Message Signs           97          198

Drive Time Censors                 379          663

But many traffic snarls on area highways are the result of human error, such as distracted driving, which leads to crashes, which then leads to delays.

Michael Morris with the North Central Texas Council of Governments believes the next big innovation could be vehicles that eliminate human error.

“Seventy percent of responsibility rests with the driver,” said Morris. “But General Motors has said in the next five years, there will be more technology put into a vehicle since the time automobiles were invented.”

NCTCOG helps plan for the future and what needs and infrastructure will be needed to support population growth. It may be years, even decades, before autonomous vehicles are commonplace on the road, but Morris is hopeful such vehicles will make existing highways more efficient.

“The vehicles can talk to each other, the vehicles can talk to the infrastructure, the infrastructure can talk to the vehicle. Vehicles are going to be able to travel closer to each other so the capacity of the system is going to improve.”

Once autonomous vehicles are ready for the road, Dallas-Fort Worth might be a prime place for pilot programs, according to Morris. Managed lanes like the TEXpress system provide a certain amount of manipulation for test runs when it comes to technology.

“These lanes will be early places of deployment of driverless vehicles and vehicles of advanced technology, and DFW will be one of the first systems for these in the country because we are creating a system of managed lanes.”

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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