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Vehicles that talk

Vehicle-to-vehicle communication

28 05 15

Cars that talk to one another could soon be a reality. The technology, straight out of old movies by Disney (Herbie) and Pixar animation (Cars), is moving from screens to streets faster than you may have imagined.

Cars with technology enabling them to communicate with their environment can seem like a whacky idea, but one that is sure to become reality in the not-so-distant future. Vehicle to vehicle communication (V2V) is already being tested, and could be coming to a car manufacturer near you as early as 2020. The future has arrived and it is smarter than the average hatchback!

What is V2V technology?

While it is in the early stages of development, this technology is really an information system to provide traffic reporting as well as advanced warning of hazards. Keeping drivers well-informed by relaying information through a wireless network, the system ultimately aims to make our roads safer by reducing risk. Drivers will be notified about hazards even before they are visible, providing ample time to slow down and reduce the likelihood of collisions.

The first generation of V2V communication technology will only alert the driver, but future releases could combine early hazard identification with self-driving technology. That would result in a car that intelligently reduces its speed and swerves to avoid hazards.

How does Vehicle to Vehicle Communication work?

V2V is only one element of what scientists are calling an intelligent transportation system (ITS). Signal transmitters could also be located in traffic lights and roadside stations (known as vehicle to infrastructure communication) to complete the network of dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) devices. Data such as location, distance, speed, direction and even vehicle responses such as breaking or skidding, would be bounced between stations to paint a complex picture of the transport environment.

The system uses a wireless frequency with a 5.9GHz band and bandwidth of 75MHz which any tech geek will recognise as the same frequency that Wi-Fi technology uses. The signal is limited to a 300m range, which roughly translates to a 10-second warning when travelling at motorway speeds.

The significance of V2V technology

The driving force for the implementation of the technology is to reduce the cost of road accidents. That includes the costs of lives lost, injuries, insurance payments and permanent disfigurements. It would also save the government’s time and money by reducing the need for repairs to infrastructure.

In the United States, where the technology is being trialled, driving accidents cost the authorities US$300 billion a year. However, the US government says the financial savings are a secondary consideration, with human suffering and loss of beloved family members being the main driver. According to World Health Organisation (WHO) data, around 3000 people are killed every single day from road-related injuries – a needless loss of human life that the vehicle communication technology aims to reduce.

Early adopters

The technology has the backing of several large automakers, with General Motors, BMW, Audi, Honda and Volvo all working on installing V2V technology into their latest models. General Motors has been a V2V pioneer from the start, as they showcased a Cadillac fitted with the technology way back in 2006.

With such giants of the automobile world openly embracing the technology, it’s clear that V2V technology isn’t a passing fad and will one day soon feel as natural as air conditioning or stereo systems do now. By the end of this decade, a ‘smart car’ will no longer just refer to a compact, stylish city-car. It will be a term for a whole new generation of intelligent vehicles that have an awareness of their environment, and a means to self-correct and drive to the conditions.

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