By KIMBERLEY HAAS | August 26, 2018 |Union Leader Correspondent
DURHAM — Researchers at the University of New Hampshire are looking for ways to improve safety with vehicle-to-infrastructure connectivity technology, and the city of Dover will be testing out their devices within the coming months.
Research program manager Christina Dube said they will be using radio and cellular devices to see if they can successfully have traffic signals communicate with cars. The philosophy is that future smart and autonomous vehicles will be able to stop themselves at red lights even if the driver is not paying attention.
Dube, an electrical engineer with 25 years of experience in data communication, oversees computer engineering students Ethan Wamsley and Justin Paquette. They put in six weeks of intensive work this summer preparing to install the technology along Silver Street in Dover.
“I’m interested in this topic because it is setting the foundation for years of future technology in the connected vehicle industry to build on top of, which will lead to the development and deployment of more autonomous connected vehicles and smart city technology, which I am a proponent of,” Paquette said Thursday.
Assistant professor Nicholas Kirsch said one of the biggest challenges they are facing, especially when it comes to cellular technology, is latency. He explained it using the example of trying to post a photo online from Gillette Stadium during a major event.
With so many people trying to do the same thing, there is a delay. That could be problematic if it takes a traffic signal two minutes to communicate a light change, he said.
But the concept of keeping people on the road safer sparks his interest and Kirsch says automobile manufacturers are already using autonomous technology with adaptive cruise control systems and other features.
“We’re headed toward a future that has more autonomy in driving,” Kirsch said.
City Manager Michael Joyal said Dover officials have been focused on improving traffic conditions for a few years. They have replaced traffic signal equipment so it can be digitally controlled to adjust to the needs of drivers.
Silver Street is a good place to test the use of short range radio and cellular signals from traffic lights to vehicles because it is a major route from Route 16 to Central Avenue, Joyal said.
Joyal said city officials learned about the project from their consultants at Sebago Technics in South Portland, Maine. They are a partner in the research being performed, which is in response to an initiative called the Signal Phasing and Timing Challenge issued by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
According to UNH, driver automation and vehicle-to-vehicle connectivity features are increasing in popularity, but vehicle-to-infrastructure connectivity does not yet have the market or government mandate to facilitate its growth, sparking this initiative.
Dover is the only community in the Northeast to participate in the research and development project.
The radio and cellular traffic signal technology will be tested in September and October, Joyal said.