I get a ton of press releases every day telling me about new technologies. Many of these press releases are about cars, which is my area of expertise; some are not. Many are timely and useful technologies that seem to move us toward a safer, cleaner transportation future; some are not.

And some, like the Early Warning Intersection Device, are great ideas that are going to take a lot of cultural, political, and monetary heavy lifting to make reality.

The EWID, which is not a great acronym, alerts the driver with lights and sounds that he’s approaching an intersection if he hasn’t pressed the brake pedal yet. If he still doesn’t slow down, the car will do it for him. The car has to have an automatic braking feature baked in, but that will be present in nearly every new car by 2022.

The sticking point isn’t the technology. It’s the implementation. The alerts come from “passive information strips embedded in or applied to the asphalt.” The car has to be equipped with V2I, or vehicle to infrastructure, communications capabilities in order to receive the signal. There are no rules or agreements yet on when cars are going to have this technology on board.

So yeah, it’s a brilliant idea that would surely save lives. But here are the stumbling blocks:

  • Cars have to have V2I capabilities
  • Cars have to have automatic emergency braking (not a huge hurdle anymore)
  • Cities have to approve and buy the information strips
  • Work crews have to embed or apply the strips
  • Enough cars have to work with the strips to make a difference in the accident rates

Cities in the US are having enough of a problem making traffic light information available to the EnLighten app and Audi’s new V2I light recognition system. One of the founders of EnLighten told me in a conversation that the city of Atlanta will be late to the V2I party due to the fact that its traffic lights are set and synchronized by hand. A human being drives the streets of Atlanta at night and sets the timing. There are a lot of streets and streetlights in Atlanta.

Technology like the EWID is the way of the future, but there are some very human hurdles to overcome, like municipal budgetary meetings, before we have to worry about our automotive robot overlords taking over all of our driving tasks.

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