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Could connected vehicle technology make Tampa roads safer?

If you’re a driver in Tampa, then you know how dangerous the roads can be. With increasing congestion, erratic motorists and nearly constant speeding, it’s no wonder that the Tampa area consistently ranks as one of the most dangerous metros in the country for motorists.

To combat this public safety threat, the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA) has just started a pilot program with so-called “connected vehicles” to see if wireless technology can make our roads safer places to drive.

Tampa Roads: Dangerous For Drivers And Pedestrians Alike

Every time a “Most Dangerous Roads In America” list comes out, it seems like Tampa is on it. Unfortunately, this reputation is justified. Interstate 4 from Tampa to Daytona Beach has the highest number of fatalities per mile of any stretch of highway in the country, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Fatality Analysis Report System.

The situation is no better for pedestrians. While safety is improving, Florida is still the most dangerous state in the country to be on foot, including seven of the most dangerous metros. One of them is (you guessed it) the Tampa metro area.

Connected Vehicle Tech: A Possible Answer?

Enter “connected vehicle” technology, which lets cars talk to each other wirelessly through the internet. This is different than the semi-autonomous driving technology featured in Teslas and other self-driving cars, which constantly scan the surrounding environment. Instead, connected vehicles rely on receiving signals from a mesh network of other nearby cars. Safety transmitters are also installed on road features, as well as public transportation.

Here’s how it works in practice. For instance, if one driver brakes too hard, their car sends an alert to the rearview mirrors of nearby cars to be on the lookout. Similarly, if another driver is going the wrong way on a road, their car would alert other drivers automatically. Even nearby pedestrians can receive notifications on their phones when road crossings become unsafe.

More than that, connected vehicle technology is also useful for gathering data on traffic flow and overall road safety. Is one style of highway exit safer than another kind? How do different stretches of interstate measure up against each other in terms of safety? Where is traffic the most unpredictable? With connected vehicles quietly recording data, public safety officials can obtain a wealth of information they can use to improve our roads.

Now Appearing On Roads Near You

In November, the city of Tampa rolled out a pilot program to put connected vehicle technology to the test. For the next 18 months, more than 1,000 cars on Tampa roads will feature transmitters that monitor other nearby vehicles that have the same technology. If one of them detects a problem, they’ll relay it to the others. Several public transit buses have also joined the pilot program, so they will benefit from the data as well. After analyzing a year’s worth of data or more, public officials hope to assess how effective current road safety feature actually are and whether connected vehicles lead to safer driving.

Will it work? Time will tell. However, even if serious car accidents are reduced, Florida still has a long way to go.

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