Smart intersections may be the next technology revolution. See how Utah will implement them.

Meet your most compelling reason yet to start taking the bus: A system that will speed up your commute.

Traffic signals turning green throughout your entire commute may seem like something out of “The Italian Job,” but thanks to a major infusion of federal funds, more Salt Lake City transit riders will soon experience a fast track to their destinations.

Utah was one of three states selected by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration to deploy “vehicle-to-everything,” or V2X, technology. The $20 million in federal grants will allow the Utah Department of Transportation to upgrade intersections with sensors that will send information to approaching vehicles.

The technology can inform cars of weather impacts, crashes and even pedestrians to give drivers time to adjust before they’re within view of an obstacle or slowdown, according to the federal government.

It will also make bus commutes faster with signal prioritization.

V2X capabilities are already on 87 Utah Transit Authority buses, Executive Director Jay Fox said during a Thursday news conference, allowing buses to get a few extra seconds at green lights. The entire UTA fleet, he added, will be equipped with the technology within the next five years.

UDOT snowplows also have V2X technology, which allows for operators to clear roads faster and give drivers warnings about plow zones, Executive Director Carlos Braceras said. He expects the technology to spark a major shift in how people drive.

(Jordan Miller | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Department of Transportation Executive Director Carlos Braceras speaks during a news conference in Salt Lake City on Thursday, June 20, 2024.

“When seat belts became mandatory, you started to see a decline in the rate of serious injuries and fatalities in our country. When [automatic braking systems] were introduced, you could actually see the change that impact had; when airbags were deployed — same thing,” Braceras said. “I believe that a mass deployment of vehicle-to-X, we’re going to look back on years from now, and say, ‘Wow.’”

Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt said Thursday’s announcement is a piece of a larger plan to make the technology more widely available. Car manufacturers, Bhatt said, will have to see the need to deploy V2X technology “at scale, because that’s the only way that we’re truly going to get connectivity out there.”

(Jordan Miller | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Department of Transportation technology engineer Blaine Leonard demonstrates how V2X technology is integrated into the traffic signal at 2100 East and Foothill Drive on Thursday, June 20, 2024.

Utah already has the first “connected” vehicle corridor in the nation along Redwood Road, and UTA buses with special radios already communicate with traffic signals there, making the Beehive State a pioneer of V2X systems.

About 20% of Salt Lake City traffic signals are equipped with the technology — including the light at Foothill Drive and 2100 East, where UDOT officials demonstrated the transit signal prioritization during Thursday’s news conference. UDOT said the city plans to get up to 25% of its signals using the technology in coming months.

Mayor Erin Mendenhall lauded the investment.

“My watch tells me when I’m close to closing an exercise ring. It tells me to get out there and get moving. It tells me when I need to stand up because I’ve been sitting for too long,” she said. “Imagine now ... the bridge, the road, a light, a vehicle up ahead — telling your vehicle and you that you’re in danger, that you need to behave differently. ... It’s a huge advantage for the state of Utah, and just a couple of other states, to be at the forefront of this investment with our federal partners.”