A "Test Drive" for Intelligent Transport Technologies

New simulation software will allow transportation planners to try out smart technologies before they are installed

A Reading, Mass.-based systems integrator has developed a simulation prototype to help designers of future intelligent highway systems test-drive their ideas.

The computer simulation system developed by The Analytic Sciences Corp. allows companies to "drive" through a 3D highway scene that incorporates whichever high-tech facilities a firm wants to analyze -- giving them the chance to study the effects of new highway technologies before they are put in place.

TASC is hoping the General Motors-led consortium designing a national automated highway system for the United States will use its simulation software to "virtually" try out alternative approaches. "Developing an automated highway system is a complex task involving the combination of many different hardware components and operating concepts that have never been put together before," said David Whitney, TASC's principal investigator for the highway evaluator, or HiVal, project.

"HiVal gives developers a single client-server system where many different kinds of highway simulations can be easily plugged-in and run together efficiently," said Whitney.

The national automated highway system must combine vehicle collision-avoidance products, automated toll-collection facilities, and other technologies that are not even available yet. HiVal can simulate the integration of all these systems, said Joe Ailinger, a TASC spokesman.

The Federal Highway Administration awarded the seven-year, $200 million contract to develop the Automated Highway System to GM in October. An AHS would automate many of the things a driver does today, like keeping a car in one lane and slowing down as it approaches another vehicle. An AHS prototype is due by 1997.

In addition to companies testing out their own smart transportation technologies, local and federal governments could also use HiVal to plan for a high-tech highway system, Ailinger said. TASC does not sell its simulation software, but it uses HiVal to provide professional services.

HiVal was derived from technology 28-year-old TASC developed for the Defense Department. TASC demonstrated HiVal at the First World Congress of Intelligent Transportation Systems in Paris, which began Nov. 30.

In the last six months, IVHS activities have been renamed Intelligent Transportation Systems, or ITS. The new label reflects a change in thinking about America's transportation system as a whole unit, not just as vehicles and roads, said Rick Schuman of ITS America, formerly IVHS America. n

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