UA studies new technology that could program vehicles to self-drive

UA studies new technology that could program vehicles to self-drive

TUSCALOOSA, AL (WBRC) - Self-driving cars seem very "Jetsons," but the University of Alabama and ALDOT already working on getting them on the roadways now.

Tuscaloosa County is the first in the state to try out DSCR Radios.

Over the course of a year, 85 of them will be placed on top of traffic signals across Northport and Tuscaloosa.

That's got to be done first before cars are tested out.

"Through DSRC technology, it sends signals and you see the blue waves," said Dr. Bharat Balasubramanian, the UA Executive Director for the Center of Advanced Vehicle Technology.

DSRC is short for Dedicated short-range communication. Once it is installed, emergency response vehicles can see how the device will help them out on the road.

"Other cars receive these signals and they know then there's an emergency responder coming," said Balasubramanian.

All 85 DSRC units will be connected to a traffic management headquarters that can send information. Officials said this will change the lights to red for cars and green for Emergency response vehicles.

"Can I get the green, do I need to brake, or should I try to go through the signal at the last moment, so this is always a tricky question," said Dr. Bharat Balasubramanian.

Next, University vehicles will be programmed to where the device can let them know when to slow down, go, or stop before a light is about to change.

Today, software to detect items on the road isn't available. However, eventually they want programmed cars to have the ability to warn you, and eventually stop or switch lanes for you all-together.

Some people are on the fence about the self-operating car feature.

"I think when a person wants to get in their car they want to have the freedom to run through a red light depending on their judgment," said driver Zack Corbett.

Corbett said this program has the potential to reduce crashes.

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