NEW YORK – Five blocks of a major artery here were closed for several days this week for demonstrations of the latest advances in automated vehicles and highways, part of the 15th World Congress on Intelligent Transportation Systems at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

Most of the participating vehicle makers, including Audi AG, Honda Motor Co. Ltd., Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz, Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., Toyota Motor Corp. and Volkswagen AG, gave attendees a close-up look at their work on advanced vehicles that can stop automatically at traffic lights and avoid collisions. The demonstrations were run on 11th Avenue in front of the convention center.

“The intelligent vehicle and infrastructure technologies on display this week will save drivers precious time and hard-earned money by making travel safer and more convenient,” says Scott Belcher, president and CEO of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America. “These technologies allow cars and roads to communicate with each other.”

Randell H. Iwasaki, chairman of ITS America, says his group wants to push for more extensive goals in intelligent transportation technologies when the current Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users legislation expires in September.

The act was signed into law by President Bush in 2005 and designed to improve safety, reduce traffic congestion and improve freight movement along the nation’s highways, while protecting the environment.

Iwasaki, who also is chief deputy director of the California Department of Transportation, says the push will be on for improved vehicle-to-vehicle communications, along with infrastructure improvements.

Despite the financial crisis engulfing the nation, he’s hopeful taxpayers will approve more spending on highways.

Iwasaki predicts a downturn in federal spending for these measures, but notes California voters recently approved tax increases to improve transportation.

About 10,000 transportation professionals are expected to attend the Congress this week, including government officials and vehicle company executives.