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V2X connectivity could be the next step in eliminating human error on roads

The development of vehicle-to-everything technology is moving from the lab to real roads, but how will the technology benefit drivers, pedestrians and smart city governors? Celeste Dooley investigates

Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) connectivity has long been spoken about, but it has taken time for the technology to find any meaningful real-world deployment.

From sensors embedded in roadside infrastructure and even ‘connected’ cycle helmets, there has been much said on the potential for V2X. In essence, the technology should allow a vehicle to communicate with the surrounding ecosystem, improving driver awareness and thus safety. The vehicle would be interconnected to not only other vehicles, but the surrounding infrastructure and potentially pedestrians as well. In an era of driverless cars, it could also prepare active safety systems for emergency manoeuvres.

V2X compatible vehicles can be notified of road hazards, changes to traffic light status, upcoming roadworks and more. Some V2X sensors have a range of nearly 1,000 feet, which allows drivers to be alerted of a hazard with sufficient time to avoid a potential collision. While complementing advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) sensors such as radar, LiDAR, and camera systems, V2X provides longer range sensing, can communicate with cloud-based services, and is designed to extend a vehicle’s ability to see and communicate further down the road. Some go as far to say it can help the car see around corners.

The industry is figuring out how to replace the use of all five of our senses – plus our experience and intuition – with a computing framework

According to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 94% of road incidents result from human error. V2X is intended to enhance the capabilities of human drivers and prevent such incidents. Potentially dangerous situations can be flagged to the driver in advance, better preparing them for what could be a hazard.

Humans have had to do this for decades through their own senses and intuition, explains Marques McCammon, Vice President of Automotive at Wind River. “When we’re driving we don’t rely just on our eyesight,” he tells M:bility. “We also take audible cues; you hear changes in the road surface and adjust accordingly. You might hear sirens from an emergency vehicle and pull over, or you may notice a parent chasing a child, which suggests a child may run into the street. Your experience provides context for your intuition.” V2X could help to bring even greater clarity, and better inform the decisions of drivers which, for the foreseeable future, will remain in control of the vehicle. “By employing V2X communications, cars will be able to alert each other and the infrastructure to road hazards or impending collisions,” adds McCammon.

V2X in practice

According to research from Siemens in 2015, V2X connectivity can lead to improved road safety, increased efficiency and fewer traffic jams. It found that implementing a fully dynamic V2X in-vehicle unit system led to 35% fewer accidents and 31% fewer people injured on Germany’s A9 highway. In Las Vegas, a connected corridor allows certain connected vehicles to communicate with traffic infrastructure such as intersections and traffic signals. Vegas’ roads can be dangerous – they are long, straight and fast, but are peppered with pedestrian crossings. Roadside units can warn upcoming drivers when a pedestrian approaches a crossing, and connected street infrastructure can alert drivers to certain restrictions such as bus lanes or if another vehicle is travelling against the flow of traffic in the wrong lane.

In Columbus, Ohio, sensors are being installed at intersections to detect traffic and warn drivers of potential hazards as they approach. Vehicles that have been equipped with new vehicle-to-infrastructure technology will provide prompts and alerts to drivers as to whether other cars, pedestrians or bicycles are passing through an intersection or running a red light, for example. The city, which won the US government’s 2016 Smart Cities Challenge, has been working closely with mega-supplier Continental on the project.

And it’s not just suppliers that are showing a keen interest in V2X, automakers are also bullish on the technology’s potential. GM, for example, plans to offer the technology in a high-volume Cadillac crossover in 2023, which will eventually be used across all models in the brand’s portfolio. Ford has been working with AT&T and Delphi on a V2X platform in the US, while PSA Group has been trialling cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) technology in France, with long-term plans to utilise 5G connectivity. Toyota and Lexus intend to launch dedicated short-range communications- (DSRC) based V2X technologies in certain US vehicles in 2021.

By employing V2X communications, cars will be able to alert each other and the infrastructure to road hazards or impending collisions

In January 2018, a number of major automotive players such as Continental, Ericsson and Nissan announced plans to carry out C-V2X trials in Japan, while Audi has offered traffic light information connectivity in certain models for a few years now. “If you look at the market leaders – such as BMW, Daimler, GM, Toyota and Volkswagen – they are all going through some manner of organisational and architectural restructuring,” observes McCammon. “All of those day-to-day sensing activities are things that most of us take for granted behind the wheel. With autonomous driving, the industry is figuring out how to replace the use of all five of our senses – plus our experience and intuition – with a computing framework.”

An intuitive experience

In future, the expectation is that vehicles will become ‘intelligent’, but this simply describes their ability to make informed decisions based on data from the surrounding environment. This will be done in real-time, and with extreme accuracy. Indeed, V2X-capable vehicles may even be able to recognise potential warning signs based on the usage of surrounding infrastructure and buildings.

In an extreme example, the car could recognise an evacuation in part of a city due to an earthquake. “A smart building adjusts lighting and cooling as people move from one room to the next, but what if the building suddenly experiences an exodus?” muses McCammon. “Imagine how valuable that information could be to the car if a building indicates that it has turned off all of its lights in the past 30 seconds. That could be a signal to the car that there is a hazard up ahead.”

As with any new technology, there is often a degree of hype that surrounds its introduction, and V2X is no different. For those stakeholders involved in the development and deployment of this technology, the challenge lies in ensuring that tangible benefits to its implementation are not lost in the hype that can surround new announcements. The industry must also be aware of the risks as well as the benefits, particularly when it comes to cyber security.

“As these vehicles become more dependent on wireless connectivity, both within the vehicles and externally, they become more vulnerable to outside interference, whether accidental or with malicious intent,” warns McCammon. “Ensuring these vehicles have the required levels of cyber security is of paramount importance for the connected car.”

This article appeared in the Q4 2018 issue of M:bility | Magazine. Follow this link to download the full issue

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