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Report Takes Transportation 'Lightly'

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WASHINGTON, Oct. 26 -- A new report offers scientific solutions for increasing the safety and security of our nation's transportation system.

"Riding on Light" offers recommendations to the US government for addressing these issues with optics, the science of light. The recommendations are the result of the Workshop on Optics and Photonics in Transportation and Infrastructure, held in December 2003 by the Optical Society of America (OSA), the International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE), the US Department of Transportation and the US Department of Commerce.

The report outlines improvements optical technologies will be able to support in our transportation system, including the following:

  • synthetic vision -- displays substituted for windshields;

  • situational awareness -- real-time, multivariable information about the transportation environment conveyed to operators and controllers;

  • biometrics -- optical scanning of irises, faces or fingerprints;

  • chemical/biological/combustion measurement and detection -- spectral monitoring of gases, liquids and aerosols;

  • infrared sensing -- infrared night vision to detect warm-blooded roadway hazards or nighttime intruders;

  • fiber optics -- high-bandwidth communications for intelligent transportation systems and drive-by-light; sensors for sound, stress and nuclear radiation;

  • lighting and reflectivity -- intelligent, efficient lighting using photocells, solar panels and LEDs aided by reflective paints and coatings;

  • sterilizing -- ultraviolet light to kill or render inviable organisms in ballast water.
It also recommends five actions for the federal government to accelerate the deployment of optics and photonics technologies:

Leverage federal investments. Many of the optics and photonics technologies that could improve the performance of the transportation system already exist, especially in the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, according to the report. There need to be mechanisms that foster collaboration among government, industry and academia to accelerate the deployment of these technologies across the government and into the nation’s transportation system.

Invest in research. In order to be widely deployed, optics and photonics devices and their associated systems will need to be affordable, reliable, adaptive, real-time, robust and unobtrusive. Further basic and applied research is needed to achieve these attributes in future devices and systems, the groups recommend.

Set "stretch" goals. The nation needs aggressive "stretch" goals that will challenge the research community to develop new optics and photonic technologies and concepts that will result in breakthrough capabilities that could radically improve the performance of the transportation system.

Provide incentives. Government, industry and academia need incentives that will encourage them to create common solutions to the common problems facing the nation’s transportation system, including the infusion of venture and equity capital, performance-based standards, friendly regulatory and certification processes and innovative financing mechanisms.

Increase education and awareness. There needs to be increased emphasis on optics and photonics in high school, technical school and university science and engineering curricula as well as more awareness in government and industry of the benefits and applications of optics and photonics technologies, according to the report.

The complete report is available at OSA's Web site:
Oct 2004
coatingsCommunicationsConsumerdefenseenergyNews & FeaturesOptical Society of AmericaopticsOSARiding on LightSensors & DetectorsSPIEtransportationWorkshop on Optics and Photonics in Transportation and Infrastructure

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