Macomb County’s connected police cars clear safer, faster path through traffic

Written By: MJ Galbraith

Imagine a mobility infrastructure that gives first priority to first responders. One that not only modifies traffic signals to respond to real-time traffic patterns, or gives buses a faster and more efficient path, but one that stops traffic in all directions so that a police car, ambulance, or fire truck can safely pass through an intersection.

Thanks to a combination of public and private partnerships, it’s much closer to happening.

Novi’s Danlaw, Inc. has partnered with Code 3 on a police car that is equipped with Danlaw’s V2X technology, a two-component technology that allows vehicles to communicate with traffic lights and other infrastructure, and then trigger critical modifications to the flow of traffic for first responders.

After a series of tests, including a major pilot program throughout Macomb County, Danlaw and Code 3 are ready to sell the world on V2X-equipped vehicles and infrastructure.

Danlaw has been on a tour of the state, presenting the police car to entities like Oakland County and the Michigan Department of Transportation, as well as several out-of-state locales. The companies have a booth at ITS America's 28th Annual Meeting in Washington D.C. to showcase their technology-infused police car.

“We have the technology and we’ve proven that it works. Now we’re ready to show others so that they can try it and get excited by it,” says Danlaw’s product marketing manager, Cyrilla Menon.

The technology works through roadside units installed by Danlaw on infrastructure components like traffic signals. The Danlaw-equipped vehicles then communicate with each other and the traffic infrastructure, each sending signals to one another, possibly alerting vehicles of driving conditions ahead or modifying the pattern of traffic signals.

The work Danlaw is putting in with first-responder vehicles is an extension of previous iterations of its V2X technology. Last year the company was equipping buses with the technology. As a bus approached a traffic signal, the signal was modified to shorten red lights and lengthen green lights in order to give buses priority.

Now with first responder implementation, traffic signals can be modified to give complete right of way to police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks. Such a system improves the chances for a successful run, enhancing response times while at the same time improving dangerous driving conditions for first responders. It’s a more efficient system, but one that is much safer for all of those involved.

In recalling the pilot program in Macomb County, Danlaw’s Menon recounts one first responder who said they were able to reach a heart attack victim much faster than might have been previously expected, successfully reaching that person in time before it was too late.

“It was pretty powerful,” she says. “If this technology can save one life, then that’s what this is all about.”

Menon has nothing but praise for Macomb County, an early adopter of the program. She says the county was on board not just early, but aggressively. From Danlaw’s perspective, Macomb is backing up its claims that safety is their first and foremost priority by making implementation of the technology a county-wide effort.

What’s unique about Macomb is that the county has begun to implement the technology across all facets of its fleet, from the infrastructure to the first responders to the construction crews. That only helps Danlaw as it seeks to sell communities on the technology.

“It’s a show of faith that this network is coming to maturity,” Menon says.

“Communities like Macomb are taking the onus upon themselves to be the pilot programs and taking on all of the headaches associated with that.”

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