DOT contest launched to help cars connect on the road

Monday - 1/31/2011, 12:04pm EST

Peter Appel, Administrator, Research and Innovative Technology Administration, Department of Transportation

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

It's gotten to the point where our vehicles can talk to each other. All kinds of vehicles, like cars, trains and even bicycles.

Now the question becomes "What should they say?"

The Department of Transportation is throwing down that challenge in a contest for ideas called the "Connected Vehicle Technology Challenge."

Transportation's Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) Administrator, Peter Appel, told Federal News Radio the challenge "follows up on a number of years of work and research we've already been doing at the U.S. DOT about how wireless communications can help in a lot of ways in our transportation system to avoid vehicles crashing into each other, to improve environmental efficiency and the like."

Now, said Appel, "we really want to widen the number of innovators that are coming up with good ideas to achieve goals in these areas".

They're looking for ideas for "ways that wireless technology can make the transportation system safer, more efficient, or even greener through efficiency or safety based communications."

Appel said RITA is already working on how to use "wireless technology for one vehicle to alert another vehicle if there is some hazardous condition coming. For example, if a vehicle quickly swerves or becomes disabled because an animal is in the road or something like that, very possibly a car three vehicles back might be affected by that but not be able to know because it's blocked by cars in between." So wireless communication can send a signal to cars all along the road, both in front and behind.

And, of course, they've already thought about letting vehicles behind you know that you've just turned on your windshield wipers during those pop-up rainstorms we get in the summer.

The Connected Vehicle Technology Challenge is open to "all idea generators and innovators, including those not working in the transportation industry," and runs through May 1. The six best submissions will be awarded a trip to the premier global conference on advanced transportation technology, the 2011 Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) World Congress, to be held in Orlando in October 2011.

For rules and to submit ideas, go to connectedvehicle.challenge.gov