Design Engineering

UAlberta engineers test cars and roads that talk to each other


General Automotive

Under the ACTIVE-AURORA research initiative, researchers are testing smart vehicle technology on the streets of Edmonton.

UAlberta smart technology

Photo courtesy of UAlberta Faculty of Engineering

Smart technology is moving into every facet of the driving world, whether it’s autonomous vehicles, Bluetooth-enabled infotainment systems, or sensor-enabled traffic lights. However, engineering researchers at the University of Alberta are pushing the technology one step further.

Under the ACTIVE-AURORA research initiative, UAlberta engineers are starting to test smart vehicle technology on the streets of Edmonton. This is the first Canadian city to witness cars communicating with one another as well as with the roadside infrastructure.

The goal of this initiative is both to explore the technology as well as improve roadside safety.

“ACTIVE-AURORA will be data-driven test-bed for the whole region,” said Tony Qiu, a civil engineering professor and director of the UAlberta’s Centre for Smart Transportation.


The initiative was first announced at the International Conference on Transportation Innovation in Edmonton on September 16, 2016. This project will bring together three levels of government (Transport Canada, Alberta Transportation, and the City of Edmonton), the University of Alberta, the University of British Columbia, and several industry partners.

How will this all work? In connected vehicles, a wireless device exchanges information in real time with roadside equipment, such as traffic lights or message signs and with other connected vehicles.

This technology will enable the infrastructure to actively inform other motorists of traffic conditions and road hazards. The smart technology will even go as far as to let motorists know if they will make it through an intersection safely or if they should prepare to stop.

“Collaborative initiatives such as ACTIVE-AURORA…ensure the development of new technologies that have an immediate and direct impact on the public good. This project has the potential to improve public safety and ensure the safe and timely delivery of people,” said Fraser Forbes, dean of engineering.

The partnerships are key to the project’s success and will help to bring research initiatives into the global market. Qui explains that the project is slated to bring the technology to China.

“We will implement what we have done in Edmonton, Alberta in China. This shows how our research from ACTIVE-AURORA will be exported globally,” said Qiu.

“Edmonton roads are now equipped with smart technology. This opens up all sorts of possibilities,” said Karim El-Basyouny, a civil engineering professor who is a member of the project team.

“This technology is going to revolutionize the way we think and move. It will allow vehicles to be able to communicate information to each other and talk to the infrastructure,” he said.


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