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Added Safety and Convenience for San Antonio Motorists

SwRI develops advanced traffic systems for a national showcase project

The LifeLink System will connect emergency room physicians and emergency medical technicians with video, voice, and vital signs links.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has awarded Southwest Research Institute a one-year, multimillion dollar contract to serve as systems integrator for the Model Deployment Initiative (MDI). The project is part of the Federal Highway Administration's Model Deployment Program, which includes only three other metropolitan areas in the U.S. The TxDOT project will result in devices and systems to improve traffic flow and increase traveler safety through the TransGuide Advanced Traffic Management System in San Antonio.

TransGuide operations, which began in July 1995 on 26 miles of San Antonio freeways, have so far resulted in a 15 percent reduction in accidents, according to a Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) study. Incident response time has decreased as well, and the corresponding savings from these reductions is estimated by TTI at $5 million a year. Operations will eventually cover a total of 191 miles of roadway in the San Antonio area.

According to Dr. Steve Dellenback, SwRI staff scientist and TransGuide MDI program manager, the Institute will develop the following systems to further improve area traffic flow and safety conditions:

  • LifeLink -- will provide a videoconferencing capability between EMS technicians at the scene of an accident and emergency room physicians. Physicians will be able to view a patient's injuries using full motion video and deliver instructions directly to the EMS technician. The vital signs of the injured will also be transmitted directly to the emergency room.
  • Automated Vehicle Identification (AVI) -- will provide information about travel speeds and vehicle location and movement on area roadways. Small antennas, or readers, will receive signals from transponders in special tags on vehicle windshields. Vehicle speeds will be computed by comparing tag transit times between two AVI readers. The data provided by this system will be used for overall traffic planning in the city.
  • In-Vehicle Navigation -- will enhance commercially available automobile route guidance units by linking them to real-time TransGuide information about roadway conditions and traffic incidents.
  • Kiosks -- will be placed in malls, hotels, businesses, and other high-traffic areas to provide -- via touch-screen monitors -- real-time traffic, route guidance, and weather information, as well as directions to local attractions, mass transit schedules and routes, and limited airport information.
  • Advance Warning to Avoid Railroad Delays -- will help motorists avoid congestion at railroad crossings on freeway access roads. Sensors along the tracks will detect train speed and length, and computers at the TransGuide Operations Center will calculate how long crossings near exits might be blocked. Freeway message signs can be used to alert motorists so they can select alternate exits.
  • Area-wide Database -- will compile traffic and roadway information from the TransGuide database, the state's road closure database, the AVI database, and the Advance Warning to Avoid Railroad Delays database. The data will be distributed to in-vehicle navigation systems, kiosks, emergency response groups, and a low power television station that transmits traffic information to the public and the local media.

The Institute will receive approximately $8.5 million of the total MDI contract award, which amounts to just over $13.5 million in federal, state, and local funds. The City of San Antonio and Via Metropolitan Transit are partners in the project with TxDOT.

San Antonio joins the Seattle, Phoenix, and New York/New Jersey/ Connecticut areas in developing and showcasing advanced Intelligent Transportation System features under the nation's Model Deployment Program.

Published in the Spring 1997 issue of Technology Today®, published by Southwest Research Institute. For more information, contact Joe Fohn.

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