TAMPA, Fla. — Imagine if a car up the road could automatically warn your vehicle of an upcoming slowdown. Or if the traffic signals in Tampa could tell your car the exact speed to travel so you'd make all the lights.
“Anytime we're giving drivers more information to make better decisions, it is going to help,” said Bob Frey, planning director for the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority and the head of the $21 million Connected Vehicle Pilot Program set to begin next May.
Frey says the Expressway Authority is in the process of recruiting 1,600 volunteers who use the elevated lanes of the Crosstown.
Those chosen will get a shark fin-type antenna and a new electronic rear-view mirror installed for free.
The equipment will communicate with other vehicles on the road and traffic signals, for a safer, more efficient drive.
To sweeten the deal, participants will get 30 percent off tolls on the elevated lanes.
“If the car in front of you stops short, your mirror will tell you that you have a forward collision warning, that the vehicle in front of you made a hard stop.”
And it's not just drivers who could benefit. Pedestrians could also be safer with an app running in the background of their phones sending an alert to drivers letting them know that someone is getting ready to cross the street.
“It put you on the grid,” says Frey of the new technology. “It allows the roadside units to recognize where you are -- and what I think is the most important thing, it tells the 3,500-pound vehicle where you're at.”
If you're worried about privacy and Big Brother tracking your every move, project planners say personal information will not be included with the data transmitted.
HART buses traveling through downtown and 10 of the city's street cars will also be equipped, providing those drivers the same warnings and giving public transportation higher priority for green lights.
In the end, project organizers say some of the ideas might not work, but even that makes the study a success.
“We've learned a lot about what not to do,” said Frey. “Were moving into the future and that's what pilots are all about.”
If you would like to be a participant in the Connected Vehicle Pilot Program click here to find out how you can get involved.