Intelligent transportation technology comes to WCC

 Published on Feb 20, 2015 1:35pm

On the Record

Ann Arbor is becoming a hotbed for the intelligent transportation industry, and this fall Washtenaw Community College will begin offering training and activities for students who want to work in this fast-growing field. The main components of Intelligent Transportation Systems are devices and software that enable vehicles to communicate with one another and prevent accidents. The US Department of Transportation estimates that such technology could eliminate up to 80 percent of crashes by unimpaired drivers by providing alerts. Vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for those under age 35, taking nearly 34,000 lives each year.

Partnership with UMTRI

WCC has partnered with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), which is researching the real-world effectiveness of the technology. Thousands of drivers in the Ann Arbor area have volunteered their cars to be outfitted with the dedicated short range communications (DSRC) devices. UMTRI is learning how effective the devices are in weather events, traffic and curvy or hilly roads. UMTRI recently donated two of the DSRC devices for WCC’s fleet vehicles, which will be used to enhance curriculum in a variety of subjects. Intelligent transportation systems utilize many technologies and require the efforts of engineers, computer scientists, network and database administrators as well as field service technicians, explained Neil Gudsen, program manager for computer information sciences at WCC. “These devices are going to offer plenty of opportunities for WCC students.”

Opportunities on the horizon

The computer information science department will offer a revamped C# programming certificate in the fall that includes a capstone course in embedded systems programming. Students will develop applications that emphasize connected vehicles, infotainment systems, real time transit data and other ITS related projects.

Gudsen is also launching a student club for anyone who is interested in learning more about the devices. Students will learn how to analyze data from both and test their effectiveness in different environments or incidents.

Brandon Tucker, dean of Advanced Technology and Public Service Careers said, “Intelligent transportation systems is a perfect example of how our faculty responds to the emerging education and career readiness needs in the county and region. Our subject matter experts from both Business and Computer Technologies as well as the Advanced Technology and Public Service Careers divisions have done an amazing job of aligning efforts to further prepare our students for jobs.”

More than just car-to-car

Intelligent transportation technology is being rapidly developed by auto manufacturers, Gudsen added. And, at a recent ITS conference in Detroit, Gudsen saw Honda demonstrate technology that could prevent pedestrian-auto crashes by analyzing the GPS coordinates of a vehicle and a pedestrian’s smartphone.

“The intelligent transportation systems technology is bigger than just car-to-car,” Gudsen said.

At WCC, such technology will be utilized in many ways beyond one course and one club. The business, auto, and computer information departments are exploring courses and programs that provide training for students who want to develop, analyze and work on the new vehicles and technology that will soon be a standard part of daily transportation.

“WCC is preparing to address one of the most important challenges facing a national deployment of connected vehicle technology: qualified, job ready employees who are trained in the latest intelligent transportation systems,” said Dr. Peter Sweatman, director of UMTRI and the Michigan Mobility Transportation Center.

“We strive to be forward-thinking in our workforce development efforts and provide programs that engage and challenge our students,” said WCC President Dr. Rose B. Bellanca. “It’s imperative that our students hold the specialized and emerging skill sets necessary for both today’s jobs and the workplace of the future.”