Back in August 2010, Unwired covered the Department of Transport (DOT) IntelliDrive initiative that plans to create a wireless network to connect vehicles, municipal infrastructure and consumer hand-held devices using dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) in the 5.9GHz band. There has been disappointingly little progress toward widespread adoption of DSRC in the 10 years since the spectrum was allocated for intelligent transportation (ITS) applications. Pilots and schemes rolled out by regional authorities have focused on collision avoidance and fare collection, but failed to ignite an explosion of innovative ideas within the developer community. The diagram below shows the DOT’s original vision of DSRC used between vehicular and roadside systems within the National ITS Communications Architecture – dry stuff to be sure.
Figure 1 – DOT National ITS Communications Architecture (2004) Great Ideas, Come On Down! So it was good news for IntelliDrive when the DOT announced the Connected Vehicle Technology Challenge in January, inviting the general public to submit smart ideas for how DSRC could improve transportation. The competition closed to submissions on May 1st and judging will continue through the end of June. In true American Idol tradition, voting is open to the public until the end of May although the DOT has neither revealed who the final judges are (other than describing them as a ‘panel of experts from the DOT’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Program’) nor whether the public voting results will influence their decisions. It might have been preferable for some outside influence from, say, technology entrepreneurs who have real-world experience of converting innovative concepts to business reality – not something Big Government is known for. Regardless, six winners will be chosen and later honored at the 2011 World Congress on Intelligent Transportation Systems in Orlando, Fla., in October where they’ll have a chance to present their winning ideas and hopefully attract commercial interest; there are no cash prizes or promise of grant funds. Without proper financial backing to potentially transition the winning submissions from paper to real product, the whole competition seems rather pointless. One can’t help but think that the DOT would have been smarter to partner with a university innovation cluster, business incubator, VC or group of high net worth individuals to dangle the prospect of funding and commercial development to successful participants. But hey, they’ll pay for your hotel and happy meals at Disneyland so quit complaining. A total of 77 submissions were received by the deadline; an impressive turnout. Looking through them, they essentially break down into the following categories:
The most popular categories were Driver Alert Warning systems (18%), and concepts for wireless systems network architecture (17%). While ideas for using DSRC for Collision Avoidance accounted for just 4% of entries, one from Howard University garnered 56 votes from the public (most entries have less than five votes each).