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Can your car interact with the roadway? A Tampa study showed how that's possible

Signs for northbound I-275 and eastbound I-4
Google
The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority recently wrapped up a smart vehicle test program that started in 2015.

The technology connects vehicles to highway infrastructure to warn drivers about things like entering on an exit ramp or being on a collision course with a trolley.

We already have vehicles that warn you when there's another one next to you or stopping in front of you.

Now, imagine if your vehicle interacted with the roadway, warning you you're going the wrong way.

Tampa's a proving ground for that kind of 'connected car.'

The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority recently wrapped up a smart vehicle test program that started in 2015. The technology connects vehicles to highway infrastructure to warn drivers about things like entering on an exit ramp or being on a collision course with a trolley.

The technology alerted 15 drivers that they were headed the wrong way onto an interstate, and nine more were warned they were in the path of a trolley.

While the number of incidents the tech prevented wasn't high, the results are encouraging.

"I mean 14 wrong way entries or 9 being hit by a trolley doesn't sound like a lot until you think that each one of those is pretty catastrophic if it happened," said Robert Frey, the authority's director of planning and innovation.

In the study, the expressway authority gave volunteer drivers toll breaks to have their vehicles connected to highway technology that sent them those warnings.

Frey said the volunteers surveyed found having their vehicle connected to the highway comforting.

"I think it was 66 percent felt that it made their drive safer. We had 55 percent felt that it made it less stressful," Frey said.

Volunteers were given toll breaks to have their vehicles connected to sensors on area roadways.

Frey says 2040 is the current target date for having this kind of smart vehicle technology operational across the country.

I started my journalism career delivering the Toledo Blade newspaper on my bike.