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GETTING THERE COLUMN: One day, technology may replace stop, yield road signs

HAVE you ever found yourself sitting at a stop sign on a deserted road wondering why you’ve actually stopped?

Of course, stop signs are there for a good reason. But, really, what is the point of coming to a complete stop when your car is undoubtedly the only one on the road?

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute is conducting research that would fix that scenario, but it’s so radical and against the grain of our driving culture we may never live to see the day it comes to fruition.

Yet there is hope, because the U.S. Department of Transportation is funding the study.

Researchers, according to a story on the institute’s website, are looking at taking those stop and yield signs off the road and putting technology in the car, “where a dashboard screen will automatically alert the driver of what actions to take, if any. The new angle: If no other car is present at the intersection, the driver would be allowed to pass through and go on.”

The institute has already tested the system on its Virginia Smart Road.

The cars were outfitted with GPS-like dashboard screens with a flashing display telling drivers to either stop or yield.

“The deployment of this technology in the real world would involve a whole re-working of the transportation system and is not likely to be deployed in the near future,” Alexandria Noble, a graduate student leading the study, said in the institute’s story.

This kind of forward-thinking has to start somewhere, and the institute seems like the place to do it.

The institute focuses on connected vehicle technology, with the idea that one day our roads will operate like an Internet grid system where “smart cars” communicate with each other and the surrounding infrastructure.

It would be a world relegating static (i.e. stupid) signs to the dustbin of history.


The Virginia Railway Express wants riders’ help naming a new mobile ticketing app it will launch next year.

If you come up with the winning name, a new model train and a one-month pass will be yours.

The commuter rail system has already tabbed a few potential names (EasyTix, CapitolPass, SmartRide, PotomacPass, and XpressPass).

Go to if you have a good suggestion. You can also find the link on the Transportation blog.

The system will allow VRE passengers to download a free app so they can buy and validate their tickets by simply tapping on their smartphone screens.

VRE plans to roll out a pilot app early next year and then launch the full version in April.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436