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UNH and City of Dover Test Tech That Could Pave the Way for Safer Self-Driving Cars

Robert Garrova for NHPR
UNH computer engineering students Ethan Wamsley and Justin Paquette provide a demonstration of vehicle-to-infrastructure connectivity tech

UNH is teaming up with a private partner and the City of Dover to test traffic lights that are capable of communicating wirelessly with cars. Researchers say he technology paves the way for safer autonomous vehicles.

Right now, cars from several major manufacturers use visual imaging and vehicle-to-vehicle connectivity to make cars more autonomous.

But the tech UNH and its partners are working on allows cars to talk with infrastructure too.  

"One of the things that would be huge, is these stoplights are basically communicating 'hey we're red,' [so] that the car knows 'I need to stop regardless of what the driver is doing,'" said Christina Dube, Research Program Manager for UNH's Connectivity Research Center.

Researchers believe the technology could make transportation greener too, by allowing cars to manage speed based on upcoming signals instead of having to stop and accelerate again from a red light.

Two UNH students gave an early demo of how the tech works Tuesday, with a tablet computer displaying the red, yellow, green signals of a nearby mock traffic light - in real time.

"We use a traffic controller signal to be able to broadcast messages out to cars that are approaching an intersection so that they would be able to have information about the intersection, such as how long the light is going to be a certain color, or what color it’s going to be," said Ethan Wamsley, a computer engineering student at UNH and part of the team working to test the technology.

The traffic signal data could be helpful for drivers, with the potential for displaying red light countdowns on vehicle navigation systems or heads up displays.

The project received $83,000 from the Federal Highway Administration.  Researchers hope to test on three busy intersections in Dover in September.

Dover is the only city in New England to participate in a national challenge from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials to approximately 20 intersections by 2020.

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