A convoy of U.S. Army vehicles will be cruising Interstate 69 in St. Clair and Lapeer counties in late June.
The vehicles will be testing a piece of technology that is a critical piece in the development and testing of driverless and connected vehicles.
“This is the first time these tests are being done on a highway,” said Doug Halleaux, public affairs officer for the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center.
TARDEC and the Michigan Department of Transportation will hold public information sessions on the testing May 23 in Imlay City and Capac.
The convoy will test vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure radio communications, Halleaux said. The technology used to communicate between the Army line-haul vehicles and between the vehicles and infrastructure is the type of computerized communication that would be used in an autonomous vehicle.
“In order for automated vehicles to work and work correctly and work safely, that automated vehicle needs to talk very fast, sending data back and forth, first to the vehicles around it,” Halleaux said.
The vehicles also need to send communication to radio points set up within the infrastructure to anticipate changes such as an upcoming curve in the road or a widening of the roadway.
Rob Morosi, a spokesman for MDOT, said the ability to communicate changes or obstacles in the roadway could eventually lead to safer driving.
“This is a huge safety upgrade not only for the Army but for car manufacturers, truckers and everyone else as this technology progresses and becomes more widely used,” he said.
Morosi said a total of six radio units are installed along the highway infrastructure, five that are temporary and one that is permanent.
“We plan to outfit the I-69 corridor with permanent ones as time goes on,” Morosi said.
Halleaux said the stretch of I-69 in St. Clair and Lapeer counties was chosen for the project because of its relatively light traffic and its proximity to TARDEC’s headquarters at the U.S. Army Detroit Arsenal in Warren.
“Essentially, I-69 was chosen for a couple reasons,” Morosi said. “One, its proximity to an international border crossing; and, second, it’s a two lane highway.”
Halleaux said the exact date and location of the exercise will not be announced to avoid extra traffic on the roads.
However, he said, officials want to provide information to the communities that may see the convoys moving along I-69.
Morosi said the meetings are meant to allay concerns that might arise at the sight of the military vehicles and to assure residents that a driver will be behind the wheels of the vehicles participating in the exercise.
Officials will meet with residents May 23 at 10 a.m. at the Imlay City Hall, 150 N. Main and at 1 p.m. at the Capac Museum, 401 E. Kempf Court.
“We’d love for the community to take some pride in this,” Halleaux said. “This is a special thing for Michigan.”