The most interesting thing in mobile and location in 2014 is the connected vehicle. Back in the early 1990s, a bigger vision of smarter highways began to be explored. The technology was refined, and resulted in successful demos of cars talking to each other and to roadside infrastructure like traffic lights. If you lived in Southern California, you might remember seeing platoons of automated vehicles zipping along a closed section of Route 15.
Since those heady days, the timing and visioning for smart highways and vehicles were tempered by the massive cost of the infrastructure required. Now we are seeing the “connected vehicle” starting to roll out of the doors of dealerships, but with a different and more limited type of connectivity than we started to envision in the 1990s.
Reminiscent of the mission started decades ago, a new year-long “smart car” project and demo will be held in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The objective of the smart car project is to determine whether wireless communication between vehicles can improve safety Three thousand cars, buses and trucks will utilize data recorders and a technology similar to Wi-Fi that can transmit information about accidents or hazardous traffic conditions.
Drivers participating in the demo will be warned of sudden changes in traffic patterns or potential collisions through data transmitted from similarly equipped cars and roadside devices. Eight major automakers will provide vehicles and engineering assistance to the study.
Currently, some new car models are equipped with active safety devices that can alert drivers if they are drifting out of a traffic lane or traveling too close to another car. But the smart car demo differs because will share safety information with other smart cars on the road.
The smart car system can give drivers visual or audio warnings about sudden traffic changes experienced by another connected vehicle. Several cameras installed in the connected vehicles will also capture data on how the drivers respond to accidents and sudden changes in traffic conditions.
Today’s connected vehicle is sometimes referred to as a smartphone on wheels, a limited vision of what can be. Now is the time to determine if the savings of fewer accidents or increased capacity on our roads will outweigh the cost of new infrastructure and added functionality in vehicles.