Car Talk

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Mandate aims to improve communication between vehicles and drivers

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has been tapped to design the framework that will let vehicles “talk” with their drivers. The U.S. Department of Transportation wants to mandate such communication technology for all cars and light trucks. The agency has added $1 million to the transportation institute’s initial $3 million project on connected vehicle technology.

The project aims to design, test and disseminate the initial recommended framework that controls how motorists receive traffic warnings, the too-close approach of another vehicle, weather warnings or text messages while driving.

The researchers will focus on the communication’s format and the order and timing of such messages. The goal, according to federal officials, is to improve highway safety, prevent crashes and alleviate congestion.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has been building connected vehicle technology since 2001. Tests have been done on driver interfaces such as augmented reality pop-ups on windshields or audible devices, both in simulated labs and on open highways. Motorists communicate with the car by voice or by gesture, such as ”sweeping” away information on a screen with the wave of a hand.