After recent closed-course tests at Texas A&M University’s RELLIS Campus showed Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) technologies could be applied at the Texas/Mexico border to help manage vehicle traffic, researchers with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) are preparing for the next step: real-world testing at land ports of entry (POEs) for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
“CBP mainly uses manual procedures to measure border crossing wait times and delay. TTI is analyzing various technologies that will automate the border wait time measurement and enhance the information provided to CBP and traveling public,” says TTI’s Juan Villa, principal investigator for the Department of Homeland Security project, which was awarded to the University of Houston’s Borders, Trade and Immigration Institute. “We demonstrated that DSRC technologies have the capacity to not only measure wait times accurately, but also predict traffic queues and conduct lane management.”
TTI researchers evaluated roadside and on-board equipment installed in two test vehicles to determine if connected vehicle (CV) technologies could help solve congestion management issues at POEs. The findings were encouraging.
- Data transfer was not affected, even when the vehicles were driving close to each other.
- The technology distinguishes which lane vehicles are in, even when they are traveling side by side.
- The data transfer from the on-board equipment was consistent between moving vehicles.
“The closed-course tests showed us that the technology is reliable, efficient, fast, secure and unlikely to have interference in message transmission,” says TTI Associate Research Engineer Rajat Rajbhandari, who developed the concept of operations for the project. “As a result of our findings, we believe estimating wait times, predicting queues, lane management, and even pre-screening of vehicles at the land POEs are feasible with these technologies.”
Villa’s team is preparing a final report about the year-long project and hopes to conduct the next phase of research, which involves testing an enhanced wait time system in a real- world environment.
“Our goal is to place 50 of these on-board DSRC devices into trucks at an El Paso border crossing,” Villa explains. “We will develop the software and algorithms to relay wait times directly to CBP, and to motorists based on their vehicle’s current locations.”
Villa says the system will be able to estimate queue length, dissipation rate and provide lane assignments. “There’s a lot more work to do, but the first hurdle is complete, and we are optimistic,” he says.
The ultimate goal is to utilize CV technology and provide much more dynamic wait time forecasting and better situational awareness of traffic condition to CBP and to motorists.
“This border project will be TTI’s first full-scale deployment of DSRC technologies in a live environment. The system will be completely developed by TTI researchers. The experience we gain from this project will certainly be applied to other connected vehicle research,” Rajbhandari says.