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In 2016, there were more than 300,000 crashes on Ohio roads, 94 percent of which were caused by driver error. Research indicates that 80 percent of those crashes could have been avoided or mitigated with autonomous and connected vehicle technologies.

These technologies enable vehicles and the transportation infrastructure to constantly transmit, receive, monitor and respond to signals about road conditions, traffic flow, accidents, bad weather and other driving hazards. This type of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) data sharing helps drivers avoid dangerous situations and allows traffic monitors to make better decisions about traffic management.

Even though “autonomous” and “connected” are often used in conjunction with each other, they mean different things.

A fully autonomous vehicle can literally drive itself without any human involvement. An autonomous vehicle is equipped with the technical systems necessary to sense its environment and make decisions based on what it detects. Advanced driver-assist systems, such as adaptive cruise control, automatic parking and collision avoidance, are the first autonomous systems starting to appear in cars.

Connected vehicles are equipped with Wi-Fi and “dedicated short-range radio communication” (DSRC) devices, technology that enables them to communicate and share data with other connected vehicles, with connected infrastructure and with the driver’s smart phone. Drivers can receive alerts about accidents, hazardous road and weather conditions, and other potentially treacherous situations, giving them more time to react. All of the data collected from connected infrastructure and vehicles is stored, shared and analyzed for the purpose of improving the safety and efficiency of the transportation system.

Vehicles can and will have either or both autonomous and connected features.

Dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) is a two-way short- to medium-range wireless communication system that permits the transmission of very large amounts of data. In simpler terms, it’s a secure and reliable wireless communications technology that allows connected vehicles and connected infrastructure to talk to each other. Using onboard units and roadside units, DSRC alerts drivers to hazardous conditions and situations and allows transportation monitors to better manage traffic.

In simple terms, smart mobility means using emerging technologies to improve the mobility of people and goods. It’s the use of new technologies to move things from point A to point B in the safest, most convenient and most cost-effective way. Smart mobility encompasses everything from car-sharing programs, on-demand ride services and better access to public transportation to drones, autonomous and connected vehicles, and a transportation infrastructure that’s connected, automated and intelligent.

Autonomous and connected vehicles drive on roads, bridges and highways just like regular cars do, but they need additional infrastructure to work.

Autonomous, or self-driving, vehicles operate by onboard systems that can sense the environment around them and make decisions based on what’s detected. They don’t typically need additional infrastructure. Instead, they benefit from relatively simple road upgrades, such as better striping and pavement markings.

Connected vehicles, however, require an enhanced technology infrastructure to function. Fiber-optic cable, for example, is essential to handle the tremendous amount of data from connected vehicles that has to be collected, shared, stored and analyzed. Cellular telecommunications, roadside units with radio frequency and satellite communications are also needed to accommodate the use of connected vehicles.

The Ohio Department of Transportation is deploying these technologies – where they make sense – to improve Ohio’s infrastructure for connected vehicles.