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Automated car upgrades to I-380 will reduce crashes, new Iowa DOT report shows

Traffic travels along Interstate 380 just north of Swisher. (File photo/The Gazette)
Traffic travels along Interstate 380 just north of Swisher. (File photo/The Gazette)

The addition of automated vehicle lanes on Interstate 380 between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City could cut the average crash per mile by nearly 50 percent by 2040, a new state report shows.

The automated vehicle report, completed this summer by the Iowa Department of Transportation as part of the department’s I-380 planning study, took a look at how the corridor might operate in the future as automated vehicles become more prevalent in the market.

“The safety analysis indicated that (automated vehicles) are capable of preventing the majority of car crashes that occur on I-380 today,”

Automated vehicles are not driverless but are vehicles with some form of automation, including automated braking or lane-awareness functions.

According to the report, a four-lane, unimproved I-380 is expected to see a 60 percent increase in the average crash per mile by 2040. With the addition of two lanes — one in each direction — the average crash per mile would increase by 23 percent. Neither scenario would result in much change in the number of fatal and major injury crashes, the report states.

Read more:Major traffic impacts loom over I-80/I-380 interchange project

However, with the addition of two lanes and automated vehicle improvements, the average crash per mile would decrease by 45 percent, while fatal and major injury crashes would drop 20 percent, according to the report.

The report identifies automated vehicle improvements to the corridor as pavement designed with such vehicles in consideration, which includes a proper thickness, 12-foot-wide shoulders on both shoulders, continuous fiber optics and power lines along the corridor and other infrastructure upgrades like readable signs, cameras and sensors to feed into automated vehicle programs.

In addition to reduced crashes, automated vehicles — which are expected to make up between 20 percent and 85 percent of all traffic by 2040 — will improve highway capacity, reduce aggressive driving and improve efficiency, according to the report.

Ultimately, the report recommends future study, including the development of a concept for operations of automated vehicles and infrastructure.

“There are still many action items left to properly incorporate (automated vehicles) into the I-380 corridor and widespread use on public roadways in general,” the report states.

The Iowa DOT also recently released a report on existing conditions and operations of the I-380 corridor that looked at the state of pavement and bridges, as well as how the interstate measures up to current design standards and interacts with the environment.

The initial plan would entail adding an outside third lane in each direction, with future room for growth, according to the report.

“To meet the traveling needs today and in the future, Iowa DOT will consider a strategy for full replacement of the facility that meets current design standards and provides the potential to expand to eight lanes in the future,” a summary of the report states.

The public can see the reports, provide comments and seek feedback at iowadot.gov/I380PlanningStudy.

l Comments: (319) 398-8309; mitchell.schmidt@thegazette.com

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