Conroe picked for Vehicle Eco project

Kevin Balke, senior research engineer with Texas A&M Transportation Institute, shared news of a vehicle eco study being planned for the Highway 105 corridor during a Sept. 11 meeting of Conroe City Council.

By Beth O’Brien, reporting for Bluebonnet News of Montgomery County

Conroe City Council heard an update on a Vehicle Eco Project for the Highway 105 Corridor during their meeting on Sept. 11.

“The project deals with automated vehicles and automated vehicle controls, specifically traffic optimization through signalized corridors,”  said Kevin Balke, Senior Research Engineer with the Texas A&M Research Transportation Institute.

It’s an application where vehicles can talk to the infrastructure and the infrastructure can exchange information back with the vehicles, so that vehicles can make decisions about their travel speed as they go through an intersection.

Balke says Conroe was selected very early on in the project because they needed to look at a high speed facility, and the Highway 105 corridor is a high speed facility with good traffic flow and traffic volumes.

Most of the research related to connected vehicle applications has been performed on low speed facilities. Balke says Conroe fits the bill for the high speed facility.

Balke says phase one of the project has been finished. This involved the development of all the computer software and things that go inside the vehicle. Phase one also involved some simulation testing on the Highway 105 corridor to examine what the potential impacts would be on traffic flow and the potential benefits to drivers.

“That was very successful, successful enough so that the Federal Highway Administration decided they wanted to push forward with doing the second phase of the project,’ said Balke.

Balke says the second phase involves developing the systems, deploying them inside the car and doing some testing at their campus in College Station. If that’s successful, they would move forward with deployment testing on the Highway 105 corridor.

The second phase will take about a year to finish, and if it moves forward with funding from the FHWA, it will probably be two years from now when testing is complete on the corridor.

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