In his first visit to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) on June 17, David Strickland, administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), noted “we are on the precipice of being able to say that cars can’t crash.” Strickland detailed current NHTSA research in Ann Arbor, Mich., involving 3,000 connected vehicles equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications devices.
“How to keep a crash from ever happening in the first place: that is our future,” Strickland said. “When fully implemented, vehicle-to-vehicle communications technologies can address up to 80 percent of crash scenarios.” Strickland said connected vehicles have the potential of reducing the number of annual crash deaths from 34,000 to 5,000.
Aside from semi- and fully autonomous vehicles of the future, Strickland discussed other safety concerns and reminded the crowd that half of all traffic fatalities were caused by not wearing a safety belt. He also noted that impaired driving still accounts for one-third of all fatalities. Lastly, he urged the bipartisan financial support of transportation projects going forward.
Strickland was in College Station to give the honorary lecture for the G. Sadler Bridges Conference Room dedication ceremony. Bridges, a longtime leader at TTI who died in 2008, was an early pioneer of in-vehicle technologies. His colleagues describe him as a visionary leader and moral compass for TTI. TTI Agency Director Dennis Christiansen said the dedication “illustrates the many contributions that Sadler made to TTI and the high regard in which he is still held throughout the Institute.”
Bridges helped establish the Southwest Region University Transportation Center and directed TTI’s Intelligent Vehicle Program, which developed the ALERT™ (Advanced Law Enforcement and Response Technology) vehicle that integrated all functions of a police car into a single computer system. The project was recognized in 1997 by Vice Pres. Al Gore with the National Performance Review Hammer Award. Bridges was also a founding member of Intelligent Vehicle Highway Systems of America (today known as ITS America).
“Sadler’s legacy in supporting both our students and new technology is ingrained in everything we do here at TTI,” M. Katherine Banks, vice chancellor and dean of engineering of The Texas A&M University System, told attendees. “As we look to the future, let me suggest that this conference room be a constant reminder of our responsibility to create the next big idea.”