Conversing Cars

There’s a lot of publicity surrounding the topic of self-driving cars these days. The dream of being able to take your hands off the wheel in a fully-autonomous vehicle –previously only imagined in sci-fi and cartoons– is now coming to fruition in the real world. With all the attention going towards this technological and industrial feat (along with a bunch of money), it might be worth considering a more practical way for cars to be able to sense their surroundings.

Cars undergoing their first commercial testing in car-to-car-communications are taking the road in Sunnyvale, California. Car-to-car technology could broadcast data such as speed and bearing over a few hundred meters. Although tech already exists that enables cars to detect surrounding objects, they can only sense within a few car lengths. Their sensory instruments are also hindered with nearby obstructions. By broadcasting and collecting data through onboard computers and safety systems, cars could prevent accidents that aren’t as easily preventable with self-driving cars.

Car-to-infrastructure communications, which is also currently in development, could help reduce traffic congestion. Onboard devices would work with traffic lights and roadside beacons specifically designed for this task.

Only A Dream – For Now

Between 2012 and 2014, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DoT) and the University of Michigan took approximately 3,000 cars and supplied them with transmitters and data recorders in order to conduct a large-scale test of car-to-car communications. The researchers discovered that if this type of communication was introduced on the roads, it would prevent more than half a million accidents, and over a thousand road-related deaths, per year in the U.S. Considering there are roughly five million crashes per year, that’s a whole lot of close calls.

Even with money being poured into the autonomous vehicle industry, the DoT has been holding off on future mandates of this technology due to associated costs. The argument about whether or not 5G or LTE could substitute for the wireless frequency is also creating setbacks.

Hopefully with tests being conducted by Nissan and Savari, the future of car-to-car communications will no longer be just an idea. Expect to hear results and possible regulations by the end of this year.


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