Auto Electronics

VII can save lives – but is it affordable?

Live demonstrations of vehicle infrastructure integration (VII) technology conducted at the ITS World Congress in New York last fall indicate that the technology works, according to Paul Hansen, publisher of The Hansen Report on Automotive Electronics.

Writing in a recent issue of the newsletter, Hansen said the technology has the potential to help drivers avoid accidents, thus it can save lives, reduce injuries and property damage, and improve traffic flow. The question is whether or not deployment of VII technology is affordable.

“Current conceptual plans for VII technology call for deployment via a network of short range DSRC (dedicated short range communication) beacons,” Hansen wrote. “The beacons, one per major intersection and along main highways, will enable two-way data communication with DSRC radio-equipped vehicles.”

The cost of building a nationwide network of beacons is estimated at $11 billion to $15 billion, plus hundreds of millions of dollars each year for maintenance. But Scott Belcher, president and chief executive officer of ITS America, notes that 41,000 people are killed each year in road accidents, and he estimates that the money spent or lost in the US as a result of traffic accidents, and the money wasted on congestion, totals more than $300 billion annually.

In Europe, the Car 2 Car Communication Consortium is working to standardize interfaces and protocols for communications between vehicles and the infrastructure, but Europe is also struggling with the issue of VII infrastructure funding, according to The Hansen Report. Construction is under way in Japan, however. Hansen reports that DENSO supplied the DSRC communications units for Mercedes, Honda, and Toyota vehicles at the ITS World Congress.

In one demo, a Mercedes S-Class vehicle slammed on its brakes when the driver tried to speed through a red light. The vehicle acted on real-time information broadcast by a roadside traffic-signal controller equipped with DSRC.

“With the US economy ailing, it’s hard to imagine the federal or state governments coming up with the necessary funding anytime soon,” Hansen wrote. VII was not included in the stimulus package passed by Congress this month, “but alternative approaches are being pursued involving the private sector.”

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