Electronic Design

Connected Vehicle Technology Makes Driving Easier—And Safer

Connected vehicle technology can cut the number of people killed in car accidents each year in half or more, according to the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America).  This technology will allow cars, trucks, and other types of vehicles to “talk” to each other to detect dangerous situations and help drivers avoid crashes.

Thanks to a partnership between the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and major automakers, this hopeful technology could potentially prevent or reduce the effects of four out of  five crashes when the driver isn’t under the influence of drugs or alcohol, says Scott Belcher, CEO of ITS America.

“Connected vehicles will alert drivers if another vehicle is about to run a red light, when a car in their blind spot drifts too close for comfort, if there’s a crash ahead or even if the next bridge is getting icy,” explained Belcher, who noted that vehicles can also be equipped with pre-emptive braking systems to help drivers slow down.  “By warning drivers about safety hazards, connected vehicles have the potential to save many thousands of lives each year.”

“We use this kind of on-board technology to communicate data about the car’s location, its speed, its velocity to broadcast that to other cars in the area, and what our onboard computing platform does is calculate the probability of a collision so we get kind of a 360° awareness by exchanging this data between vehicles in a certain area,” says Roger Berg of Denso (See “Vehicle to Vehicle and Infrastructure Communications” at www.engineeringtv.com).

The Role of DSRC

Connected vehicles combine many different technologies—GPS, Wi-Fi, wireless sensors, and dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) using the 5.9-GHz band allotted by the Federal Communications Commission—to enable high speed, real-time communication between moving vehicles, transportation infrastructure, and mobile devices. DSRC allows vehicles of all types, whether traveling slowly or even over 60 mph, to communicate with each other, stationary roadside equipment, and mobile devices.

According to Berg, “\\[Connected vehicle technology is\\] primarily based on GPS technology so we know where we are at, latitude and longitude, we know the vector for our velocity. We have other sensors on the vehicle that deal with brake status, accelerator status, and steering wheel angle. We transmit and receive that data and then we calculate the predicted paths of the cars based on their relative position to the host vehicle and calculate whether their collision is imminent based on time and position.”

In addition to GPS, connected vehicles also rely on DSRC, which is an open source protocol for wireless communication. It is similar to Wi-Fi, but while Wi-Fi is used for wireless local area networks, DSRC is intended for highly secure, high-speed wireless communication between vehicles and the infrastructure. DSRC has low latency and is very robust in the face of radio interference. Its short range of about 1000 m limits the chance of interference from distant sources. DSRC also performs well during adverse weather conditions.

Already envisioned uses for DSRC include transit signal priority, vehicle refueling management, personalized taxi dispatch services, financial transactions including toll collection and parking payments, and pedestrian safety, among others.

Berg reveals that the focus now is on warning drivers and alerting them to dangers around them, like someone coming from the left or a stopped vehicle in front of them. Eventually the technology will be so advanced that it will focus on establishing vehicle control and the car itself will take measures to avoid an accident by establishing brake control, steering, or speeding up, depending on the situation.

“For less than the cost to replace an airbag, your new car will soon help you and your loved ones avoid crashes before they happen thanks to the efforts of U.S. DOT, Ford, General Motors, Toyota, and all of the CAMP (Crash Avoidance Metrics Partnership) partners,” said Belcher.

In addition to preventing accidents, connected vehicles will make life a little easier for drivers in other ways, including providing the public with better travel options and services including real-time information and navigation to avoid traffic gridlock, find better routes to work, check transit schedules, locate and reserve a parking spot, and pay tolls automatically.

The Connected Vehicle Technology Challenge

In order to discover more possible benefits, the Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) has launched the Connected Vehicle Technology Challenge, a national competition seeking ideas for products and applications that could use DSRC-based connectivity between vehicles to make transportation safer, greener, and easier. 

Anyone is eligible to enter this challenge, and your submitted idea does not need to be technical in any way. The only requirement is that a submission must describe an idea for a novel use, application, device, product, service, or solution that relies on DSRC. The specific judgment criteria used are technical and operational feasibility, potential for widespread adoption, innovation, and social benefit.

In order to enter, read the challenge rules, prepare a description of your idea in 6000 words or less, and submit the idea to the website. Submissions will be accepted until May 1, 2011, and winners will be announced on July 1, 2011.

Six finalists will be chosen to be honored speakers at a special session at the 2011 World Congress. They will receive paid registration, transportation, meals, and accommodations for the World Congress, which will be held in Orlando, Florida, from October 16-20, 2011.

ITS America

Connected Vehicle Technology Challenge

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