I-24 MOTION project aims to figure ways to keep traffic moving

Ever been caught in a traffic jam and then suddenly, you’re moving at full speed?  No wreck. No disabled vehicle. No construction. No obvious reason for the jam.

These “phantom jams” are caused by instability in traffic flow and are highly aggravating, particularly if you’re trying to get to work.

Now, the Tennessee Department of Transportation is implementing a first-of-its-kind test to understand how all types of vehicles interact with each other and the state’s infrastructure to help mitigate propel congestion management across the state.

The I-24 MOTION project’s goal is to determine and deploy the best methods to manage the exponential traffic growth over the past 10 years along the corridor.

I-24 is, indeed a major corridor. Not only is it a major commuter route for Nashville, which is growing every day, but it is a commercial freight corridor route between St. Louis and Atlanta and a major route for tourists who descend on Music City.

The I-24 MOTION project will equip a four-mile section of the interstate in Davidson County with more than 300 ultra-high-definition cameras. The images in those cameras will create a digital model of how every vehicle behaves every second it is in the testbed.

Those cameras will be perched on steel roadside poles — tall enough so larger vehicles don’t block the view of smaller ones — to be spaced along the roadway to maintain a continuous view of vehicles.

Each pole will hold multiple cameras and video feeds that are transmitted for processing off-site.

Not only will the information gathered from the testbed allow to TDOT to better understand how to manage infrastructure, but it will provide insights that the auto industry, which invests billions of dollars in adding connectivity and automation features to vehicles, can use to build better, safer cars. Such technologies are usually developed in closed-course settings or laboratories, but the I-24 MOTION project provides real freeway traffic to capture the variability of real-world conditions and human behavior.

The testbed design is underway and expected to be operational in the summer of 2022.

“This groundbreaking understanding of traffic is more important than ever due to the increasing automation capability of individual vehicles, which are beginning to influence traffic flow through their interactions with conventional vehicles,” said Brad Freeze, director of TDOT’s traffic operations division.

“By unlocking a new understanding of how these vehicles influence traffic,” Freeze says, “vehicle and infrastructure design can be optimized to reduce traffic concerns in the future to improve safety, air quality, and fuel efficiency.”