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UW Studies How To Make Highways Safer Through Technology

Tennessee Watson

Wyoming’s stretch of Interstate 80 is notorious for dicey weather conditions and heavy truck traffic. But it’s also a great place to study how to make driving safer, and that’s why it’s the testing site for a collaboration between the Wyoming Department of Transportation and the University of Wyoming.


Professor Mohamed Ahmed is the director of the project housed out of UW’s Driving Simulator Laboratory. He said the specific research is focused on connected vehicle technology, which allows cars to communicate with other cars, and roadway infrastructure, about upcoming road conditions.


“The benefit of this project is [to] improve safety and mobility on our roadways in general,” said Ahmed. “And in particular we are trying to reduce the frequency of crashes and the severity and fatalities on I-80, and more specifically the pile up crashes.”


Ahmed explained the system delivers real time updates to drivers via a screen on their dashboard. But to be sure the notifications are useful, and not distracting, truckers are testing the system in a simulated driving environment.


“So the main objective of this project is to come up with and deploy some recent technologies to provide real time information to drivers before they reach hazardous conditions on the roadway,” said Ahmed.


The next phase is to work with WYDOT and commercial trucking companies to put it to use on I-80. The U.S. Department of Transportation is funding the study of the technology. There also studies underway in Tampa, Florida and New York City. According to Ahmed, in 2018 new cars will come stock with connected vehicle technology.


Tennessee -- despite what the name might make you think -- was born and raised in the Northeast. She most recently called Vermont home. For the last 15 years she's been making radio -- as a youth radio educator, documentary producer, and now reporter. Her work has aired on Reveal, The Heart, LatinoUSA, Across Women's Lives from PRI, and American RadioWorks. One of her ongoing creative projects is co-producing Wage/Working (a jukebox-based oral history project about workers and income inequality). When she's not reporting, Tennessee likes to go on exploratory running adventures with her mutt Murray.
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