V2X: The Case for Interoperable Deployment: A Message from ITS JPO Director Brian Cronin

Last week, the Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office (ITS JPO) recognized Infrastructure Week. Recently, we at the ITS JPO have been doing a lot of thinking about digital infrastructure. A key part of digital infrastructure is the communication system to deliver information.  Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) provides this capability through both direct and network communication. Direct V2X communication is suited for safety applications requiring low-latency, while network V2X communication leverages conventional mobile networks to carry messages over longer distances.

As we continue to see more V2X deployments in our goal of a safer, more efficient future of travel, the first question that might come to mind is: “Why V2X?”

This fundamental question is an important one to address. It also offers an opportunity for me to provide some real-world examples of V2X deployment that are improving the road-user experience right now.

V2X technology enables vehicles to communicate not only with other vehicles around them, but with other road users and with roadside infrastructure. This makes V2X technology an invaluable asset in reducing the number of deaths and serious injuries on our roadways. If you are familiar with the technology, you may also know that in addition to saving lives, V2X enhances mobility, bolsters efficiency, and reduces negative environmental impacts.

Another fundamental question I frequently encounter is: “How does V2X technology work?”

Secure wireless technologies such as satellite, broadcast, or cellular communications enable cars, trucks, buses, and other vehicles to “talk” to each other, mobile devices, traffic signals, and other types of infrastructure. The graphic below shows just how interconnected vehicles and road users are in a V2X environment.

Interconnected vehicles and road users in a V2X environment
Source: USDOT

That all sounds great in theory. But what real-world evidence is there that V2X can provide these great benefits to road users? In Fulton County, Georgia, a pilot program saw two school buses equipped with direct V2X technology to give them priority at signalized intersections. The result was a 13.3% decrease in travel time, which allowed students to reliably arrive to school on time, and improved the fuel economy of the buses.

In Wyoming, the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) provides a centralized data feed, the Situation Data Exchange (SDX), for third parties such as navigation applications to consume for statewide closure information. Key to the SDX is its use of satellite communications, eliminating the need for roadside units and allowing WYDOT to have statewide Traveler Information Message (TIM)coverage, including remote areas. In addition, WYDOT consults with individual counties to include information on local and conditional closures. This potentially lifesaving information is now easily accessible to motorists and truckers, improving safety and facilitating more efficient freight movement through the state. For a deeper look at how WYDOT has improved safety and efficiency for road users, check out our previous blog post detailing WYDOT’s effort to expand access to road-closure data.

In Indiana, trucks with queue warnings were placed ahead of work zones to notify oncoming motorists of queued traffic. According to the state study, from 2020 through 2022, more than 16,000 truck-hours of alerting were provided to motorists through 53 queue trucks, including visual and digital warnings (transmitted to in vehicle navigation systems via network communications), to improve safety and increase efficiency. As a result, motorists were more inclined to reduce their speed about 500 feet earlier than before the queue trucks were deployed, resulting in an 80% decrease in hard-breaking events. 

As we talked about in a blog post last month, nearby in Utah, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) equips snowplows to receive traffic signal priority via direct V2X in areas around Salt Lake City. The result has been a decrease in roadway-crash rates on V2X-equipped roads compared to non-equipped roads, including severe crashes, and improved operational efficiency for snowplows.

An exciting study in the application of network V2X technology was observed in Washington, D.C. A densely populated urban area, Washington, D.C., presents unique safety problems for first responders. To help combat struck-by events, real-time digital alerts are sent over cellular networks to approaching motorists, alerting them that an emergency vehicle is nearby. Alerts are also sent to other emergency vehicles. On-board LED units begin flashing when two emergency vehicles equipped with this V2X technology are approaching, alerting each driver to proceed slowly and with caution. This example of network V2X technology has resulted in an observed 25 percent reduction in speed within one second of the alert!

The benefits seen in real-world V2X deployments support the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) vision to enable a safe, efficient, equitable, and sustainable transportation system through the national, widespread deployment of interoperable V2X technologies. New V2X technologies are being tested all the time, such as virtual roadside units (RSUs) being studied in New Jersey and an exciting network V2X program using freight signal priority in Texas.

The time for deployment is now. A growing number of infrastructure owner-operators are installing roadside V2X equipment that can be used for multiple applications. Each deployment brings us one step closer to a future with zero traffic deaths and serious injuries on our nation’s roadways. In the coming weeks, we will be sharing a number of exciting V2X updates through this blog; addressing questions and comments the ITS JPO received; and discussing Notice of Funding (NOFO) awardees.

Thank you for joining me this week to explore the latest developments in the world of V2X communication. Stay tuned for future posts featuring other V2X deployments. Together, we are paving the way for a safer, more efficient future of travel.

Brian Cronin, Director, ITS JPO

Posted 5/20/24