Clemson will lead research effort to eliminate traffic problems with wireless tech

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Clemson University on Tuesday announced it will lead a new effort to develop technology that could ease traffic woes across South Carolina and beyond.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded $1.4 million that will be used to establish the new Center for Connected Multimodal Mobility, according to the university.

Mashrur (Ronnie) Chowhurdy, a civil engineering professor at Clemson, will lead the center, which will also include researchers from Benedict College, The Citadel, South Carolina State University and the University of South Carolina.

Mashrur Chowdhury
Mashrur Chowdhury

Chowhurdy is currently testing wireless technology that enables vehicles to communicate with each other, pedestrians and infrastructure, such as traffic lights and roadside sensors.

He envisions a future where car accidents are an uncommon occurrence and drivers can travel down the busiest roads without stopping for a traffic light. One area of study could be Woodruff Road in Greenville County.

“Each traffic signal will have a highly intelligent brain, a controller, that is controlling the light in real time based on existing and predicted vehicular and pedestrian demand,” Chowhurdy said, in a statement. “In real time, signal timing at each intersection will be optimized and coordinated to improve corridor-wide traffic flow. Each signal will communicate what speed each vehicle should drive to avoid having to stop. The travel will be a pleasure.”

He said $6.4 million in continued funding from the USDOT is possible during the next five years.

Researchers hope to work on a transportation system that includes a “vast web” of connections that includes everything from driverless trucks and Uber rides to the ports and railroads.

Chowhurdy said the effort holds great promise, but will require research in several fields, including cyber security and big data, as well as the new technology’s social, economic, political and psychological impacts.

Clemson is one of 19 universities across the nation chosen by the USDOT to lead Tier 1 university transportation centers.

Chowhurdy said researchers will work with the state DOT and will provide the software and infrastructure to be tested. An academic advisory board and industry advisory board will oversee the center and evaluate its progress.

Some of the activities of the center will involve K-12 students, Clemson said.

“Clemson University and South Carolina are well-positioned to advance transportation technology research,” said Anand Gramopadhye, dean of Clemson’s College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, in a statement. “Our efforts are crucial to meeting the economic, environmental and societal goals of the state and nation.”

For more information, visit clemson.edu.

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