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New Kinds Of Street Signs And Highway Markings Can Talk To Autonomous Vehicles

Minnesota-based 3M is working with transportation departments across the U.S. to teach street signs how to talk to driverless cars.

The materials manufacturing company is testing connected-roads products that aim to create safer streets by developing pavement marking paint and smart street signs.


The pavement marking paint is particularly important because GPS cameras in autonomous vehicles have difficulty seeing regular pavement markings during cold weather events, and many struggle with distinguishing between asphalt and road markers, Fast Company reports.

To address these issues, 3M has come up with a design that includes white lines with black edging and an added feature called “wet reflectivity” so drivers and autonomous vehicles can see the lines better in wet weather.

3M is also testing a street sign prototype, which would be able to detect the location of an approaching vehicle and inform it through GPS of upcoming features of the road such as curves or spotlights.

3M’s Connected Roads group was formed in 1996, but was called the “Intelligent Transportation Systems Project” back then. The group initially worked to develop technology that helped snowplows detect pavement markings hidden under snow, but the project failed to take off and the group was eventually shut down in 2008, Fast Company reports.

It was revived earlier this year in order to focus on creating road markings, signs and other forms of connected infrastructure that will improve the safety of roads for all drivers.