Lincoln Company Designing Training for Traffic Systems Technicians
Valerie Lefler knows how important traffic safety measures are.
When she was 16, she and her 11-year-old sister nearly died when the car she was driving blew a tire and rolled three times on a gravel road.
She still remembers textbooks flying through the air and her sister screaming.
She credits an angel and the seat belts she and her sister were wearing that day to their survival.
“Advances in vehicle technology kept me alive that day in the car, and if I can be a part of helping advance more technology to save or prevent accidents or fatalities, I feel that is why I am here and still alive today,” she said.
Lefler is president of a company that seeks ways to improve traffic safety and congestion. Her company, Integrated Global Dimensions, supports transportation programs within federal, state and academic institutions through training, communications assistance and research.
Lefler started Integrated Global Dimensions in 2013 while still working for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Nebraska Transportation Center.
Recently, her company earned a $150,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration to develop online curriculum for technicians of intelligent transportation systems and connected vehicle technology. Those technicians often are the people who install and repair camera and pressure sensors and wireless communications equipment at traffic intersections.
Integrated Global Dimensions also plans to make the online curriculum available to community colleges and technical schools across the country.
Lefler said those technicians are the people who will install and repair the technology needed to facilitate the use of autonomous, or driverless, cars across the country.
“We need the best and the brightest helping us build our infrastructure on all levels,” she said.
Lefler said the curriculum is unique in that it is being offered online and is targeted for technicians rather than engineers. In addition, it will bear the endorsement of the Federal Highway Administration, which is likely to increase demand for the curriculum, she said.
Several automakers have begun developing completely autonomous vehicles, and the federal government also is now grappling with the legal questions posed by the use of such vehicles.
Seven states and Washington, D.C., allow autonomous vehicle testing on their roads, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In January, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the government wants to get autonomous cars on the road and will fast-track policies to do it.
The federal government isn’t predicting when autonomous cars will be on public roads in big numbers, but some automakers have said they could be in use in limited areas by 2020.
Lefler said she expects to see nearly three million semiautonomous and fully autonomous vehicles on public roads by 2025. She said self-driving vehicles could eliminate 90 percent of collisions. That constitutes the percentage of collisions caused by human error.
A typical fatal car crash costs $6 million when all costs are considered, including property damage and lost earnings, according to auto club AAA.
“The more we can prevent those kinds of things is a big savings for taxpayers,” Lefler said.
She said Integrated Global Dimensions plans to apply for a second $750,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration to further develop and update the online curriculum, which she expects will be available for purchase this fall. She said her company hopes to continually update the curriculum as transportation technology evolves.
“It’s a growing body of knowledge,” she said.