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Connected Cars – Changing the Way We Travel

Fri, 05/23/2014 - 10:16am
Meaghan Ziemba, Editor

Recent advancements in wireless technologies are not only leading to exciting and innovative car designs, but are also changing the ways in which we travel.

Using a combination of LIDAR, radar, vision and mapping GPS systems to see the world around it, the unmanned Chevrolet Tahoe used only electronics to successfully drive itself through a 60-mile urban course in November 2007 to win the prestigious U.S. Defense Department sponsored competition, DARPA Urban Challenge. The prototype vehicle recognizes road geometry and perceives other traffic and obstacles on the road. Photo Credit: David Paul Morris/Getty ImagesIt’s no secret how connected we are to the grid. Everywhere you turn, people are on their smart devices snapping photos, downloading music, and sharing their lives. Through the Internet of Things (IoT) they are able to control their home appliances, security systems, and even their car settings with a simple push of a button on their phone.

Current vehicle designs incorporate wireless technologies that monitor car conditions (i.e. tire pressure, engine temperature, etc.), provide safety warnings (i.e. fastened seatbelts, lane change clearance, etc.), and offer infotainment options (i.e. satellite radio, directional maps, etc.).

Recent advancements in wireless technologies are not only leading to exciting and innovative car designs, but are also changing the ways in which we travel. A recent U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) announcement exemplifies this, outlining how vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology can make travel safer and more efficient.

Vehicle-to-Vehicle

According to the Research and Innovative Administration (RITA), a unit of USDOT, V2V communication serves as a “dynamic wireless exchange of data between nearby vehicles that offers the opportunity for significant safety improvements.” Incorporating wireless technologies into cars enables them to be aware of their surroundings and any hazardous situations that could occur. For example, V2V can reduce traffic accidents by:

  • Providing information on unsafe road conditions, such as black ice, pot holes, and debris.
  • Offering significant warnings to road construction sites and traffic jams.
  • Giving details of other vehicles’ locations, speed, and direction of travel.

As the research from RITA states, “V2V communications will enable active safety systems that can assist drivers in preventing 76 percent of the crashes on the roadway, thereby reducing fatalities and injuries that occur each year.”
While the concept of V2V holds promising potential, there are still concerns surrounding the infrastructure, security of data, standards and protocols, and safety issues.

Vehicle-to-Infrastructure

From the Motor City to Hollywood to Silicon Valley, there has been a growing interest in autonomous vehicles for years. With driverless cars now being tested, the next hurdle to overcome is state legislation. Photo Credit: Daniel R. Rosen (www.danielrrosen.com) Full Infograph: www.danielrrosen.com/2012/02/driverless-carsFor V2V communication to be successful, the proper infrastructure needs to be in place for cars to communicate not only with one another, but with the technology incorporated into the surrounding road systems (i.e. traffic lights). Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) communications turns infrastructure equipment into “smart infrastructure”.

According to RITA, “Infrastructure equipment can include highway equipment, systems, and structures (other than vehicles) such as roadside signals (stoplights, warnings, variable message signs, etc.), traffic management centers, weather information systems, or signal phase and timing systems, among others.”

The success of V2I depends on the various components needed to collect and transmit data, and the power solutions needed to keep the components operational.

Industry and academic institutes are developing the standards that will be needed to allow cars and infrastructure to communicate. These standards call for low power communications protocols that are essential  to wireless self-powered devices.

“Power solutions will be multi-faceted, involving a variety of technologies. For example, devices that will be attached to streetlights or power poles will be hardwired, perhaps supported by a back-up battery in case of a power outage. However, other infrastructure-based applications will need to be wireless, involving some type of self-powered solution,” says Sol Jacobs, Vice President and General Manager at Tadiran Batteries. “Within this wireless environment certain devices will be powered by energy harvesting devices, such as vibration or solar energy, that will employ rechargeable lithium ion batteries for energy storage, which will need to be ruggedized to ensure reliable operation in extreme environments. Other applications within the infrastructure will be best served by primary batteries that use lithium thionyl chloride (LiSOCL2) chemistry for its proven advantages of exceptionally long life (up to 40 years) and its ability to withstand extreme environmental conditions.”

V2I not only increases the safety of driving, but also improves the mobility and environment of traveling by:

  • Reducing delays and congestion caused by crashes.
  • Enabling wireless roadside inspections.
  • Helping commercial vehicle drivers identify safe areas for parking.

Real-Time Data Capture

Another important component for successful V2V communications, according to the research from RITA, is “the creation and expansion of access to […] real-time, archived multi-media transportation data that is captured from connected vehicles, mobile devices, and infrastructure”.

With real-time data capture, safety and operational efficiency are increased, and drivers have the ability to make more informed decisions during their travel by having access to:

  • Situational safety information.
  • Congestion data.
  • Cost information derived from both traditional (traffic management centers, automated location systems, etc.) and non-traditional (mobile devices, connected vehicle equipment, etc.) sources.

Connected Vehicle Policy

Another component for the successful deployment of V2V and V2I involves standards and protocols. Questions surrounding connected vehicle policy include:

  1. How will older models of cars be retrofitted?
  2. Is a new policy action required to successfully launch and sustain connected vehicle technologies?
  3. What standards and protocols need to be put in place for V2V and V2I?
  4. Which entities will potentially fund, own, and govern connected vehicle systems, components and data?8

As the research from RITA states, the vision of connected vehicle policy will include:

[The] collaborated effort among the Department, key industry stake holders, vehicle manufacturers, state and local governments, representative associations, citizens, and others. Collectively, this group will structure and conduct a research agenda that weighs the benefits and risks and results in strong institutional foundation for the successful deployment of connected vehicle technologies and applications.”

Policy strategies will apply to global and cross-cutting issues, as well as those specific to a program’s technical roadmap In order for a solid policy foundation to be created, an agenda that focuses on policy and institutional issues needs to exist. As stated by the research from RITA, goals for a solid policy foundation are obtained by:

  • Working closely with multimodal, technical research teams to identify policy and institutional issues that limit or challenge the successful deployment of connected technologies.
  • Scoping the issues by engaging with stakeholders on the essence of the issue eliciting their requirements.
  • Engaging experts for analysis to identify best practices within other industries
  • Re-engaging decision makers and stakeholders for input on and validation of draft options.
  • Presenting a final set of analyses, options, and implication in support of deployment.

Ilya Gelfenbeyn, CEO, Speaktoit believes that connected and autonomous cars only scratch the surface in automotive technology innovations: “Other innovations have the capacity to change not only how we drive (or whether we are the ones behind the wheel), but also how we use our cars. Technology has the capacity to make our daily travels safer, cheaper, and more convenient, but it also has the capacity to change how we view our cars. In the future, we will not think of our motor vehicles in the same way, not because of how we interact with our cars, but because of how our cars will interact with our environments.”

This article originally appeared in the January/February print issue. Click here to read the full issue.

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