Highways are one of the most environmentally damaging and dangerous infrastructure systems in the world. Data from the National Safety Council showed that an estimated 42 thousand people in the U.S. died from motor vehicle crashes in 2020, a year that mainly consisted of lockdowns and quarantining due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That marked an 8% increase over 2019 in a year when people drove significantly less.
As a world leader in traffic safety solutions, 3M is committed to identifying and advancing collaborations with changemakers in transportation safety. That’s why 3M is excited to expand its partnership with The Ray, a Georgia-based living lab for transportation innovation.
The Ray serves as a proving ground for evolving ideas and technologies aimed to transform the transportation infrastructure of the future. The nonprofit organization’s mission is to build a zero carbon, zero waste, zero death highway system. With the help of 3M technology, The Ray is setting out this mission using an 18-mile stretch of Interstate 85 (I-85) in southwest Georgia to test technologies, including smart road markers and connected infrastructure, and gather best practices for future roadway projects.
“We are very pleased to continue our partnership with The Ray and build on the milestones we’ve achieved in transportation safety,” said Dr. Dan Chen, president of the 3M Transportation Safety Division. “The opportunity for us to collaborate on safety innovation grounded in real-life application and testing makes this partnership invaluable.”
The Ray and 3M are partnering to build a safe ecosystem for drivers on our public highways by examining the design and development of innovation opportunities including, but not limited to, the following:
- Smart Road Markers: By 2022, an estimated 105 million connected vehicles will be on our roads, and technology enabling roads to communicate with both new, connected vehicles and drivers of traditional vehicles will be a key safety component. Solar-powered smart road dots, or sensing reflectors, illuminate to convey a variety of alerts to drivers and passengers, including wrong way driving, road incidents such as crashes and traffic jams, and weather conditions affecting driving conditions, such as fog and black ice. The road dots are a potential source of real-time, real-place, validated road information.
- In-road and Roadside Connected Infrastructure: To support the safe operation of autonomous and connected mobility, smart infrastructure is necessary to communicate with the evolving vehicles on our roads. The development of connected infrastructure on our interstates and roadsides will enable state departments of transportation to receive real-time, location-specific data from vehicles to improve roadway safety, ease congestion and identify maintenance needs.
- Digital Data-Management Platform: Analyzing and articulating the data collected by smart infrastructure is critical for improving roadway safety and saving lives. Creating a cloud-based network will allow the data collected from smart vehicles via road sensors to be used for law enforcement, first responders and traffic safety officials.
“Smart vehicles need smart infrastructure. We already have vehicles with the capability to ‘talk’ with each other on our roads,” said Harriet Anderson Langford, president and founder of The Ray. “Now we need the infrastructure on our highways to utilize those technologies and create a safer environment for drivers. The Ray’s partnership with 3M builds on our shared goals to support the future of transportation technology and saves lives.”
In December 2019, 3M and The Ray worked with the Georgia Department of Transportation to restripe all lanes on 13 miles of I-85 with Connected Roads All Weather Elements optic technology, providing visibility during the day or night and in wet weather conditions. The stripes use refractive index-based technology that helps make road markings more visible to human drivers and to camera systems used in connected automated vehicles.