Vehicles could compare notes about hazards on I-90

If U.S. Department of Transportation agrees, the Jane Addams Tollway (I-90) will become a high-speed laboratory for "connected cars" that alert drivers of approaching hazards and traffic.

Illinois tollway officials and engineering consultant CDM Smith Federal will apply this month for federal funding to participate in a pilot program exploring vehicle-to-vehicle technology.

If accepted, the testing could begin in 2017 on I-90, which is being widened and rebuilt with "smart-corridor" features such as electronic message signs that give drivers real-time information about traffic, speeds and alternate routes. Vehicle-to-vehicle or connected cars can prevent crashes by picking up speed and location cues from each other, then alerting drivers to a multitude of risks such as rear-end, lane-change and intersection crashes, researchers say. It's described as giving motorists "360-degree situational awareness" by detecting dangers hundreds of yards away and advising on the safety of maneuvers such as passing on a two-lane road or turning left with oncoming traffic.

Connected vehicles also will convey tollway alerts about hazards or traffic that lie ahead, engineers said. The deadline to apply for the program is March 27. Government grants will range from $2 million to $20 million. Costs to the tollway will be limited to staff time.

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