Calspan Advanced Technology Center said it will test a Cellular One system combined with Rockwell International Global Positioning System receivers to determine if 911 calls made from a cellular phone can help locate traffic accidents for emergency response.

Under a $2 million contract from the Department of Transportation, 1,000 vehicles will be equipped with GPS receivers, Calspan said. The application is important because unlike most landline 911 calls, cellular 911 calls cannot be traced and the caller is not always able to give accurate or specific location information. Earlier this year, RCR reported that the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association said more than 500,000 911 calls are made from cellular phones each month.

Cheektowaga, N.Y.-based Calspan provides engineering technical services for research, development, testing, evaluation, systems development and scientific engineering programs. The Calspan-led team, also including New York state DOT, General Motors, Datumtech, Erie County Emergency Medical Service and Erie Community College, will design, build and deploy an automated collision notification system using 1,000 privately owned cars, according to the company.

Jack Wagner, Calspan’s senior vice president and general manager said, “Our team’s purpose will be to deploy an ACN system that will reduce time for motor vehicle accident victims to receive emergency medical services. The system will have the ability to sense a crash has occurred and determine its severity, identify the crash location and then notify the emergency response infrastructure (911).”

The GPS system is a satellite navigation system deployed by the U.S. Department of Defense, consisting of 24 satellites orbiting the earth at 10,900 nautical miles. With a GPS receiver, position can be determined down to 100 meters or less. One problem with GPS is that it does not work indoors or if a structure, such as a tall building, is blocking the signal.

For GPS-based location, a GPS receiver is linked to a cellular phone and modem so that the caller’s location is automatically transmitted over the cellular network when a 911 call is placed.

At the ACN 911 center, where this location information is received, the vehicle owner’s name, cellular phone number, plate number and car description will be displayed on an integrated map screen. Calspan said time of transmission, accident severity and location and heading of the vehicle are displayed on another screen. A third screen shows the location of the nearest state police vehicles, ambulances and other emergency vehicles, allowing dispatchers to respond appropriately to each accident.

“This program is special; we believe that it will directly result in saving lives in our community and eventually throughout the rest of the nation,” said Ed Startosilec, vice president of Calspan’s transportation group.

The test area will cover a large portion of western New York state and will be conducted during a two-and-one-half-year period. Calspan said it is meeting with federal DOT officials to negotiate final project funding and starting dates.


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