The US Department of Transportation is funding a series of tests for Intelligent Vehicle Highway Systems as part of a plan aimed at improving the efficiency of the country’s surface transport. The plan is expected to require investment of as much as $40,000m over the next 20 years. Seventeen consortia have said they plan to test systems with funding from the Department of Transport, with three giving details. First, a series of companies including IBM Corp and Seiko Epson Corp has embarked on an Intelligent Vehicle Highway System trial in Seattle. The two-year test will provide car drivers with information about traffic problems via wristwatch pagers, personal computers and a new type of dashboard radio. The underlying transmission system, which is based on the unused subcarrier signals inherent in FM radio signals, will be provided by a unit of Seiko Epson Corp. Seiko is also providing wristwatch pagers that can display up to two lines of text at a time. Laptop personal computers equipped with a receiving device will be supplied by IBM. These will enable information about road conditions to be integrated with maps showing the vehicle’s position and proposed routes around traffic jams. The companies say the system is unique in that it will add traffic and commute services to existing products, rather than create new, dedicated, single-function Intelligent Vehicle products. The Delco Electronics Corp arm of General Motors Corp is developing car radios that can display traffic warnings and paging messages, and Scientific-Atlanta Inc will provide high-speed data processing, digital video storage and retrieval and satellite terminal and vehicle mapping systems. The Traffic Operations Center, providing real-time control and management of the traffic network, is to be built by Martin Marietta Corp and based around Talarian Corp’s RTworks client-server software. It will enable surveillance, real-time adaptive traffic control, rapid incident management, multi-jurisdictional coordination and intermodal transportation. The test is supported by $5.5m from federal and Washington state agencies, which will help gather and distribute traffic information. Meanwhile, a group headed by Nynex Assurance Services is testing a different system in metropolitan New York. The so-called Project NorthStar trial uses the satellite-based Global Positioning System from Motorola Inc with voice information transmitted over cellular links. Stanford Telecommunications Inc’s System Integration group will be the overall systems integrator. Finally, Rockwell International Corp and Zexel USA Corp are teaming up to provide hardware and software for a vehicle navigation system planned by Oldsmobile.