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Posted on Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

$22 million wireless communication car project to kick off Tuesday in Ann Arbor

By Ben Freed


A 'VAD', or vehicle awareness device, is installed for the Safety Pilot program Friday afternoon at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

Jeffrey Smith |

A much anticipated trial testing cars ability to wirelessly communicate with one another will get underway in Ann Arbor Tuesday morning. Cars participating in the Univeristy of Michigan Transportation Reasearch Institute’s joint project with the United States Department of Transportation will be outfitted with technology that can record and transmit the speed and location of the vehicles.

The rollout of the program, a $22 million collaboration between UMTRI and the USDOT will feature remarks from Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Governor Rick Snyder, and U-M vice president of research Stephen Forrest.

Approximately 300 of 2,800 cars currently signed up for the experiment will be ready to hit the road at the official launch Tuesday. The rest are expected to be completed by mid-October, UMRTI director of marketing and communication Francine Romine said.

The institute is still accepting applications for the program and hopes to have about 3,000 cars using the technology on the road daily in the 48105 zip code area of Northeast Ann Arbor.

“About two-thirds of the participants will be individuals who live or work in that zip code, and we worked with the Ann Arbor Public Schools to find a lot of those participants,” Romine said.

UMTRI sent targeted communication to parents with children at Huron High School, Clague Middle School, and Northside, Logan, King, and Thurston elementary schools.

“People who have kids in school tend to put on a lot of miles back and forth from the school and work. So when we partner with the school system, we’re getting people who will be going through the deployment area very often,” she said.

Con-way, Arbor Springs, and Metro Delivery also will have their delivery vehicles that frequently drive through the area outfitted with the devices as part of the experiment.


Data from the 'VAD' is read wirelessly using a computer program

Jeffrey Smith |

All vehicles involved in the survey will have devices that transmit information, but only about 300 will have the aftermarket safety device that receives messages from other cars as well. Romine said data will be gathered from all vehicles, but the data from the cars with the ASD devices will be particularly useful.

Participants in the study will receive $200 for participating for a full year, including two trips to UMTRI for a data chip to be removed and replaced. As part of the participation of AAPS, parents will be given the option to donate the money directly to their school’s PTO fund.

Eight auto manufactures from around the globe, including Ford, Toyota, and Volkswagen, will provide eight cars each to the experiment. The special vehicles have the wireless connectivity technology built in to the car.

This video explains how UTMRI and the USDOT hope the new technology will help make driving safer:

Ben Freed covers business for Reach him at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2



Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 7:38 p.m.

I sure wish the government would get back to governing........I can't find in the Constitution where it enumerates that the government should be into venture socialism with taxpayer dollars..........and don't give me the "common good" excuse. Government was created to legislate laws, for a civil society........not to keep track of The People's whereabouts or their driving habits.


Wed, Aug 22, 2012 : 1:29 a.m.

The common good, or general welfare, is an important role of government. Government exists, after all, to serve the needs and well-being of its citizens. It's important enough to appear twice in our own Constitution. Preamble: "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." Article I, Section 8, Clause 1: "The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;"


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 3:41 p.m.

Still waiting for the notice of deplyment here, my money is going to AAPS

David Cahill

Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 9:48 p.m.

I got my vehicle awareness device (that is, my car got the device) over a week ago. This is a great program!


Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 7:46 p.m.

No thanks. I'm already being tracked enough.


Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 6:44 p.m.

If I have the numbers semi-right, US traffic kills over 35,000 and injures another 350,000 each year. I've been rear-ended at 35 mph (teenage driver was playing with the radio) and hit head-on on I-94 (after a driver missed the westbound curve at Haggerty). After that I'm all for taking the wheels out of the hands of the typical "driver".


Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 4:02 p.m.

Tinfoil hats on! it is amazing how negative people can be to something that might save their life in the future.

Bertha Venation

Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 3:27 p.m.

Got one on my Hoveround. Happy to participate. Privacy should only be an issue if you are misbehaving on the road.


Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 1:50 p.m.

Yep, like the "location" button on Facebook, people click on, and share, their locations with friends- Isn't that FUN??- but also with loads of others you don't know are looking. There are now cameras everywhere, tracking devices on your person in your cell phone (even when it's turned off), RFIDs sewn into your clothes and toys, etc. Corporations and government will continue on with this surveillance until people demand they stop. Saying "it's already there so relax." misses the point that no one knew it was being done in the first place, so no one knew to protest, and now it's ubiquitous. That doesn't make it right or a good idea. Bluetooth, for instance, was touted as a nifty new way to open up all sorts of time saving ways to use stuff but it's really just another branch of creating a surveillance matrix. Not good.


Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 3:58 p.m.

Bluetooth is good for about 50 feet line of sight. There are much better ways to track if tracking is the object. Now lets all put on our tinfoil hats at the same time. We will really foil Big Brother that way. LOL

Angry Moderate

Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 3:41 p.m.

Don't know how Bluetooth works, eh?


Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 1:06 p.m.

Fascinating chiphead stuff! Still unsure as to exactly how this technology will reduce crashes as the video claims unless vehicle control is relinquished or drivers react immediately without thought to nav commands issued by the system (like gps nav is sometimes not to be trusted). Digesting more dashboard display info while driving probably won't save lives. More like another Big Brother invasion of privacy under the guise of a gee-whiz helper. But then City Coucil could equip police, fire, ambulance, bus, bicycle, and pedestrian with remote controls over the local traffic. And issue virtual citations, too. LOL


Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 12:56 p.m.

For those that are concerned about Big Brother, you need to consider having a relatively new cell phone or buying a relatively new car. Google, via Smartphones, knows where you are. Verizon or AT&T knows where you are. And, newer cars have "black boxes" that track a whole bunch of things, whether you want them to or not, and the data CAN (and will) be obtained if you're in a traffic accident and the police need it to determine fault. So to not participate in a study to figure out how to make driving safer because you're worried about tracking data that is used anonymously....


Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 12:54 p.m.



Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 12:54 p.m.

Just think, this might save the planet! So, be happy that the government will soon be able to record and transmit the speed and location of your vehicle. When it comes to saving the planet, your freedom is a small price to pay! ( Of course, nobody knows if this will save the planet but that does not matter)


Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 12:20 p.m.

Big Brother - here we come!


Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 11:47 a.m.

While I like the idea of improved safety, I question what we are giving up as far as anonymity and involuntary participation. If you believe red light cameras are evil, just think of things that could soon be possible such as a retro-active speeding citation (since this device tracks and transmits your location and speed). Just something to think about with all of these great technology improvements. Oh, and just because you're paranoid doesn't mean someone's not out to get you.


Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 4:28 p.m.

I believe selfishly and inattentively endangering others is evil and that driving is a privilege. So if red light cameras help reduce selfish and inattentive driving, they're on the side of good.


Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 2:04 p.m.

@pvitaly, yes but I have the option of not sharing my location with Google.


Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 12:15 p.m.

Google maps traffic is created by tracking your phone's location and speed. I hope I don't get any speeding tickets from Google.


Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 10:39 a.m.

A total of 5 trips. One to install, every three months for the data, and one to uninstall. We have a car already in the program.