10,000 connected cars to roll-out in US V2V trials

The US Department of Transportation (DoT) has awarded $42 million to three parts of the country suffering from major traffic congestion. The government pilot scheme will equip around 10,000 vehicles with V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) and V2I (vehicle-to-infrastructure) communication capabilities by 2017.

New York City, Tampa Bay and some areas of Wyoming will be the recipients of the funding, with the bulk of it going to a project in Manhattan, which will allow vehicles to talk to each other as well as to traffic infrastructure, such as traffic lights. The project will effectively form a gigantic dynamic mesh network of constantly communicating vehicles, providing huge potential to massively reduce both accident and mortality rates – claiming it will cut the unimpaired (no DUIs, etc.) vehicle crash rate by 80%.

Aside from the obvious benefits of reducing road traffic incidents, connected vehicles will be able to transfer mapping and traffic data, with the goal of improving the efficient flow of traffic throughout highly congested areas. A more efficient, less congested traffic flow will mean reduced emissions – although environmental groups are yet to voice their support.

The ambitious roll-out comes off the back of a similar project in 2012, in which the DoT and The University of Michigan successfully tested more than 2,000 vehicles equipped with V2V technology.

Another feature that will be developed as the DoT National Connected Vehicle Pilot deployment program gains momentum, is an app for pedestrians to install on their smartphones which will integrate them into this connected mesh network, pushing traffic alerts to them (we hope the acronym V2P doesn’t become a thing). The DoT says the app is also designed to protect pedestrians, although using the on-board systems in the car to prevent a collision in the first place seems a more sensible implementation than relying on a push notification delivered via the cloud.

In Wyoming, the project will focus on the efficient movement of freight vehicles using V2V and V2I across the East-West corridor, where approximately 11,000 to 16,000 haulage vehicles travel every day.

A branch of the DoT, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has already said it will mandate V2V systems in the near future, based on the IEEE 802.11p extension of WiFi – including the licensed Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) band of 5.9GHz. The 802.11p standard has a range of up to one mile, and can create ad hoc networks between similarly-enabled cars.

The 5.9GHz spectrum is a prime piece of wireless real estate and last year, a bill was introduced to the US Senate that would open up the wireless band reserved for V2V communications. Opinions were split over this issue, with some high-power senators such as Corey Booker saying that reserving this spectrum for private use hurt poor families and widens the “digital divide”. The Association of Global Automakers (AGA), on the other hand, was vocal in its opinion that to open the band to unlicensed users is putting at risk the opportunity to save thousands of lives.

The FCC allocated the 75MHz of spectrum for Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) – an ITS technology that supports direct V2V and vehicle/infrastructure (V2I) communications – back in 1999 but carmakers have only recently started to plan commercial deployment. Some countries, notably Japan, have been implementing DSRC-type systems since 2009.

Moves towards an accommodation are being led by Cisco, which is working with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM) and the AGA to initiate tests of a ‘listen, detect and avoid’ protocol, designed to avoid WiFi interfering with car safety transmissions in the 5.9 GHz band. However, the lack of government regulation could force manufacturers to support multiple wireless standards in the future, until the next LPWAN revelation.

Details on manufacturers involved have not been released but, of course, Fiat-Chrysler, Ford and GM will undoubtedly be onboard – GM has recently been testing out its connected cars, with Cisco technologies, on that dedicated V2V spectrum and has committed to deploying DSRC V2V technology in its Cadillac CTS vehicles from 2016.

Volvo is evidently trying to remain ahead of the curve, as it recently announced plans for its Robot-based Autonomous Refuse (ROAR) project. The aim of the project is to introduce a robot that, with the help of instructions from a truck’s operating system, can collect refuse bins in a neighborhood, bring them to a refuse truck and empty them – all under the supervision of the refuse truck’s driver, who can thereby avoid heavy lifting.

The Swedish manufacturer is also currently testing its “Drive Me” experiment, involving a plan to deploy 100 autonomous cars on the roads of Gothenburg by 2017. This is in early stage trials, on public roads, and we’ve yet to hear of a major complication with the project.

IBM is continuing its IoT pursuit by launching a new cloud-based service specializing in connected car data in order to improve real-time services and data analysis – part of Big Blue’s $3 billion investment in IoT technologies. Using sensors, data such as environment insights, driving patterns, vehicle conditions, traffic conditions and accident alerts, will be sent to the cloud and analyzed for the benefit of drivers and companies.

The NHTSA and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also announced this week its intention for automatic emergency braking (AEB) to become a standard feature on all new vehicles built. Audi, BMW, Ford, GM, Mazda, Mercedes Benz, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo will work with IIHS and NHTSA in the coming months on the details of implementing the technology, using sensors such as radar, cameras or lasers.

Daimler-owned Freightliner recently unveiled the Inspiration – an autonomous, but more importantly, road legal big-rig. The technology fitted to the Inspiration earns it a “Level 3” rating according to the NHTSA automation scale. This rating means that it enables to the driver to cede full control of all safety-critical functions in certain conditions.