Texas A&M Transportation Institute demonstrates wrong way warning technology

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BRYAN, Tex. (KBTX) - Nearly 240 wrong way crashes happen each year in the State of Texas, according to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.

Researchers at TTI are trying to cut down on that number.

Wednesday morning the agency had a demonstration at the Texas A&M RELLIS Campus.

Using new connected vehicle technology, they hope to provide new notifications to drivers in the future.

Driving the wrong way can have deadly consequences.

On New Year's Eve 2011 a 17-year-old driver was going the wrong way on Highway 6 and crashed into a semi in College Station.

The teen later died.

On Wednesday an old runway at the Texas A&M RELLIS Campus was transformed into a test track.

"A lot of times unfortunately our wrong way drivers are highly impaired with alcohol and so we know a portion of those are still going to get on our roadway system. And we want to make sure that we can detect those and again stop those before they cause a crash. And these new technologies will allow us to do that," said Melisa Finley, a Research Engineer with TTI.

Both cars are connected to a computer system which traffic engineers can send messages to.

One car is warned they are going the wrong way one a screen, while other drivers get a warning too.

The system can also tie into dynamic message highway signs and alert law enforcement with information like the wrong way vehicle's speed.

Other technology includes radar equipment. It can detect cars going through a ramp the wrong way.

Traffic cameras can also help engineers send out information including the color, make and model of the vehicle.

Sometimes drivers aren't impaired but confused. That was the case in 2010 with an elderly driver on Highway 6 in College Station.

"So some of the limitations that exist are some of the exact research areas where we’re really wanting to look into things. The integration and the capabilities of being able to integrate fully with existing systems is the biggest limitation that I see right now," explained Cameron Mott, Southwest Research Institute Senior Research Analyst.

"But it's an area that we're putting some definite research into and are excited to see what comes of the next efforts," he said.

But when could this technology be common in our cars?

"My personal opinion is probably 5 to 10 years out but think of what a cell phone was ten years ago and what a cell phone is now. If you asked me ten years ago what a cell phone would look like now there's no way for me to predict. I know this is coming," said John Gianotti, TxDOT Transportation Engineer from the San Antonio District.

The research cost about $1.5 million and was supported by TxDOT.