UDOT unveils technology to help buses arrive on time

SALT LAKE CITY -- Talking vehicles is no longer the future, the future has arrived.

The Utah Department of Transportation has developed a communication system between UTA buses and traffic signals that will help buses arrive on time.

It’s called Dedicated Short Range Communications, and it uses a software system called Multi-Modal Intelligent Traffic Signal Systems.

UDOT’s engineers have installed cabinets with the technology inside of them along with radio systems at 24 intersections along Redwood Road between 400 South and 8000 South. It’s the first operational communications system of its kind in the country.

“There are five little packets of data that go back and forth from between the bus and the intersection,” explained Blaine Leonard, UDOT Technology and Innovation Engineer. “The bus has GPS on it, so, it knows where it is, so it sends a little message... that says ‘here is where I am, here is how fast I am traveling’ and here is how fast I am going.'"

Leonard said the system allows an intersection to maintain a green light longer in order to allow a late bus extra time to pass through.

"Our software can say, 'Oh OK, I know I am here, I know which lane I am in, I know which intersection I am approaching, I know I am behind schedule. It then sends a signal request message back to the signal cabinet saying, ‘Can you give me extra time?’”

Leonard said eventually UDOT will use this same technology all over the state and be able to communicate from car to car. The end goal would be not to only save time, but save lives.

“This is a signalized intersection application, but we can put these devices—for instance on US 6, or some railroad, or on the freeway—and transmit information about crashes ahead, transmit information about where there are icy spots on the road," Leonard said. "To be able to communicate with vehicles and warn them when someone is running a red light, avoid that collision. Left turning vehicles that can’t see oncoming vehicles because a truck in the opposing lane… those are future communications that this technology facilitates.”

The next time you’ll see the current technology system in use will be in August at intersection between Orem and Provo.