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Georgia DOT Rolling Out Smart Signal Technology

FILE - This May 13, 2014, file photo shows a row of Google self-driving Lexus cars at a Google event outside the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. California regulators release safety reports filed by 11 companies that have been testing self-driving car prototypes on public roads on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. The papers report the number of times in 2016 that human backup drivers took control from the cars' self-driving software, though companies argue such "disengagements" don't always reflect something going wrong. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
FILE - This May 13, 2014, file photo shows a row of Google self-driving Lexus cars at a Google event outside the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. California regulators release safety reports filed by 11 companies that have been testing self-driving car prototypes on public roads on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. The papers report the number of times in 2016 that human backup drivers took control from the cars' self-driving software, though companies argue such "disengagements" don't always reflect something going wrong. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
Credit Eric Risberg, File / Associated Press
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Autonomous vehicles are still a few years away. But when they get here, the Georgia Department of Transportation will be ready.

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According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, the DOT is almost halfway through one effort to upgrade traffic signals with technology that lets them communicate with “connected” cars and is launching a second project that’s part of a nationwide initiative.

SPaT (Signal Phase and Timing) Challenge is a pilot program calling for all 50 states to install technology capable of broadcasting information to connected vehicles along at least one road corridor at a minimum of 20 signalized intersections by 2020.

Georgia is taking a particularly aggressive approach to the SPaT Challenge with plans to install dedicated short-range radio transmitters at 50 intersections along two corridors, Ponce de Leon Avenue in Atlanta and Peachtree Road from northern Buckhead through Brookhaven into Chamblee.

The SPat Challenge project costs less than $1 million. However, the DOT is spending $18 million — including state and federal funds — to upgrade all 9,500 traffic signals in Georgia with smart signal software. Since starting the project almost two years ago, the agency has converted about 4,300 intersections.

 Dave Wiliams covers government for Atlanta Business Chronicle. Urvaksh Karkaria covers technology for Atlanta Business Chronicle.