AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (WXYZ) — As a driver, nothing is scarier than a pair of headlights happening in your direction. Now, a company out of Auburn Hills is working on new technology to stop wrong-way drivers.
Jonathon Stone works for Continental, a tier-one auto supplier based out of Auburn Hills. He says it was a local tragedy that inspired him and his team to get to work creating this technology.
Stone, and others at the company, knew the Abbas family. The family of five was killed three years ago by a wrong-way driver in Kentucky, as they made their way back to the metro Detroit area from a family vacation in Florida.
Stone and Issam Abbas had sons who played on the same baseball team, a team they coached together.
“I just really appreciated his approach and his attitude on baseball and life and his family, I really wanted to do what I could to you know do something about this problem that took their lives,” Stone.
Stone says right after the crash, he and his team got to work creating the “Wrong-Way Driver Detection and Alert System.”
Right now the technology is set up at the Joslyn exit ramp in Auburn Hills. When a driver enters onto the exit ramp, lights will flash on the wrong-way sign letting the driver know to turn around.
If those flashing lights do not work, an alert is then sent to the Michigan Department of Transportations Traffic Operation Center, so they can notify Michigan State Police.
“And then we can alert authorities quicker than a 911 call from a passing motorist,” said Rob Morosi, a spokesperson for MDOT.
MDOT with be working with Continental to help test the technology out, making sure it’s effective.
According to the most recent numbers from the American Automobile Association, there were around 2,000 wrong-way drivers between 2015 and 2018. That is around 500 deaths a year. An increase from an average of 375 deaths a year between 2010 and 2014.
On Monday, a wrong-way crash happened on i-94 near Meldrum road in St. Clair County. Michigan State Police say the crash killed both drivers.
A child in the car going the right direction was taken to the hospital in critical condition.
“The faster that we get that information into law enforcement hands, the better chance we have that this incident won’t become catastrophic,” said Morosi.
Stone says the goal moving forward is to have this technology talk directly to drives in their cars, if they do try to enter the highway going the wrong direction.