USDOT: Connected Vehicle Pilot More Complex Than Expected

Recent analysis of a connected vehicle pilot test in Tampa, Florida, conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Intelligent Transportations Systems Joint Program Office finds that the complexities of field testing and technology integration were “significantly underestimated.”

The ITS JPO conducted a review of the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority or THEA Connected Vehicle Pilot that encompassed 47 roadside units (RSUs) deployed along THEA’s Reversible Express Lane and in Tampa’s Central Business District. At its peak, THEA deployed over 1,000 onboard units or OBUs in personal vehicles, buses, and streetcars.

Photo by the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority

In a blog post, the office noted that most of the vendors involved in the project demonstrated basic vehicle-to-vehicle applications such as Forward Collision WarningEmergency Electronic Brake Light, and Intersection Movement Assist, with others demonstrating vehicle-to-infrastructure applications that were specific to their product roadmap.

However, vendors demonstrating their technologies at their own facilities “had a much higher degree of success” than those demonstrating on the expressway – leading one to infer that the “demonstrations at vendor facilities were more controlled” than those vendors who tried to demonstrate at expressway in an unknown environment, the group said.

Photo by the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority

“Because connected vehicle technology is very complex to implement and deploy, there were challenges in migrating the applications from the laboratory and vendor’s local field testing to the THEA Connected Vehicle Pilot deployment area,” the ITS JPO added. “One of the biggest lessons learned was realizing in hindsight that the field-testing [area] and integration were initially significantly underestimated. Moving a complex technology with many variables requires more testing in a deployed situation than in the laboratory.”

The agency added that the lack of OBUs deployed and operating in a “real-world environment” proved to be a “considerable disadvantage” to the vendors and the Connected Vehicle Pilot overall.

“Additionally, existing OBU applications were not as mature and ready to deploy as previously thought,” the ITS JPO team noted. “Consequently, more effort had to be put into testing applications that were believed to be ready for deployment [meaning] certain applications may be falsely marketed as deployment ready, when they in fact still require additional research and development to work effectively.”

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