The current drive to employ active safety systems to prevent crashes is based on radar, cameras, and other sensors, but there is a powerful weapon looming in the wings. Vehicle-to-vehicle communications and global positioning satellites are being examined to play a role in the push to reduce traffic accidents.
Automakers and Tier 1 suppliers are rapidly deploying radar systems and cameras, combining their input in active safety systems that hit the brakes when collisions are imminent. The moves are part of a global effort to reduce fatalities and damage.
Regulators such as the U.S. NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) are putting more emphasis on preventing crashes, feeling there is more benefit to be gained by avoiding crashes than in continuing improvements in passive safety systems that respond after the fact. Automakers are planning to add this input to active safety systems, treating it much like other sensor data.
“We think of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication as another type of sensor that will ultimately show up, though probably not until a number of vendors deploy it so you have more vehicles on the road communicating,” said John Capp, General Motors’ Director of Global Safety Technology.
Concerns about the expense of putting intervehicle transceivers into vehicles that will not have anyone to talk to is a major question surrounding the rollout of these products. The U.S. DOT (Department of Transportation) is making V2V a key element of its Intelligent Transportation System plans.
One facet of the plan is intended to speed up the rollout so that a critical mass of vehicles will begin improving safety by warning other vehicles that they are nearby. DOT thinks consumers will buy aftermarket products that could be used in older vehicles.
“Aftermarket devices could emit "Here I am" messages that are then used by IntelliDrive V2V and vehicle-to-infrastructure applications,” said Shelley Row, Director of the U.S. DOT’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office. “This would make it possible for older vehicles to be a part of a nationwide network of connected vehicles, not just newer vehicles that have factory-installed equipment.”
That could bring substantial improvements in safety. However, Row noted that vehicles with aftermarket devices would not receive the same safety benefits as vehicles with factory-installed equipment, since many safety applications require interaction with vehicle systems such as braking.
Many researchers are also looking for ways to leverage the rapidly expanding telematics industry to speed up the technology’s growth. Telematics transceivers could be altered to include V2V compatibility. However, some market watchers feel that government incentives beyond DOT efforts may be needed.
“Telematics service providers will only participate if it’s easy, it comes at no cost, or brings some benefit to them,” said Thilo Koslowski, Automotive Vice President at Gartner. “The government may give them some sort of tax break for participating. Carmakers are still trying to get people to buy into telematics, so it may also take some tax breaks to get them involved.”
While developers create plans for V2V, other projects are planning to leverage another wireless input—GPS data.
“Sensor fusion between radar and cameras can also include GPS,” said Martin Duncan, Innovative Systems Manager at STMicroelectronics. “You can get a lot of nice information from GPS. It gives you another data point for speed monitoring, and cameras can cross check with GPS systems.”
GM’s Capp noted that GPS can also be used to augment V2V input that is used by safety systems. When vehicles know where they are in relationship to roads, obstacles, and other vehicles, there is a good possibility that collisions can be dramatically reduced.
“V2V is a 360-degree sensor. Combining it with GPS so you know where the vehicles are puts you on the way towards a crashless vehicle,” he said.