Soon, a Five-Kilometre Stretch of I-75 in Michigan Will Talk to Cars

I75 Michigan

Michigan’s Department of Transportation has announced a four-month project that will see it install vehicle-to-infrastructure technology (V2I) along a five-kilometre section of Interstate 75 near Detroit, making the state among the first U.S. jurisdictions to test V2I on a real-world scale.

Michigan’s DOT (MDOT) is partnering with 3M on the pilot project, which will see that company supply equipment that will allow the road to “talk” to cars and test the autonomous vehicle technologies that many automakers are promising to have available by 2020.

According to a Michigan DOT press release, 3M’s contributions will include high-tech stuff like dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) units at the roadside that will allow the highway to communicate with passing cars equipped with V2I features. Other materials include all-weather lane markings and retro-reflective signage that will allow vehicles’ cameras and sensors to better judge the car’s position on the road and glean information like the speed limit and road conditions. A happy side effect, says MDOT, is those enhanced markers will make it easier for people to see, too.

This isn’t North America’s first experiment with V2I tech. Late last year, Audi and the City of Las Vegas announced a pilot project that saw the city install “smart” traffic signals that could tell the car when red lights would turn green.

V2I is only one component of the autonomous car equation. Cars that drive themselves also need vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) capability, something that Cadillac began including in its CTS sedan earlier this year.

Michigan’s first stretch of smart highway will be ready later this year, but its larger I-75 modernization project will eventually see close to 30 km of the highway rebuilt with a view to supporting “advanced technology and vehicles of the future.”

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Chris Chase

Chris Chase

As a child, Chris spent much of his time playing with toy cars in his parents’ basement; when his mother would tell him to go play outside, he made car sounds while riding his bicycle or dug roads for his toys in the flower garden. Now he gets to indulge his obsession playing with real cars that make their own cool noises, and gets paid for it.