Article contributed by Mr. Pramod Kumar Joshi, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Technology and Computer Applications.
In the next few years, vehicles will be equipped with multi interface cards, as well as sensors, both on board and externally. With an increasing number of vehicles equipped with on-board wireless devices (e.g., UMTS, IEEE 802.11p, Bluetooth, etc.) and sensors (e.g., radar, ladar, etc.), efficient transport and management applications are focusing on optimizing flows of vehicles by reducing the travel time ad avoiding any traffic congestions. As an instance, the on-board vehicle radar could be used to sense traffic congestions and automatically slow the vehicle. In other accident warning systems, sensors are used to determine that a crash occurred if air bags were deployed; this information is then relayed via V2V or V2I within the vehicular network.
Car manufacturers and the U.S. government are seriously looking into and researching two technologies that would enable future cars to communicate with each other and with objects around them. Imagine approaching an intersection as another car runs a red light. You don’t see them at first, but your car gets a signal from the other car that it’s directly in your path and warns you of the potential collision, or even hits the brakes automatically to avoid an accident. A developing technology called Vehicle-to-Vehicle communication, or V2V, is being tested by automotive manufacturers like Ford as a way to help reduce the amount of accidents on the road.
V2V works by using wireless signals to send information back and forth between cars about their location, speed and direction. The information is then communicated to the cars around it in order to provide information on how to keep the vehicles safe distances from each other. At MIT, engineers are working on V2V algorithms that calculate information from cars to determine what the best evasive measure should be if another car started coming into its own projected path. A study put out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2010 says that V2V has the potential to reduce 79 percent of target vehicle crashes on the road [source: Green Car Congress].
But researchers aren’t only considering V2V communication, vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, or V2I, is being tested as well. V2I would allow vehicles to communicate with things like road signs or traffic signals and provide information to the vehicle about safety issues. V2I could also request traffic information from a traffic management system and access the best possible routes. Reports by the NHTSA say that incorporating V2I into vehicles, along with V2V systems, would reduce all target vehicle crashes by 81 percent [source: Green Car Congress].
These technologies could transform the way we drive and increase automotive safety dramatically. Good thing car companies and the government are already working to try to make this a reality.
All of this communication and pre-emptive vehicle assistance leads us into our next future technology, the next section tells what it is.
The idea of a self-driving car isn’t a new idea. Many TV shows and movies have had the idea and there are already cars on the road that can park themselves. But a truly self-driving car means exactly that, one that can drive itself, and they’re probably closer to being a reality than you might think.
In California and Nevada, Google engineers have already tested self-driving cars on more than 200,000 miles (321,869 kilometers) of public highways and roads [source: Thrun]. Google’s cars not only record images of the road, but their computerized maps view road signs, find alternative routes and see traffic lights before they’re even visible to a person. By using lasers, radars and cameras, the cars can analyze and process information about their surroundings faster than a human can.
If self-driving cars do make it to mass production, we might have a little more time on our hands. Americans spend an average of 100 hours sitting in traffic every year [source: Cowen]. Cars that drive themselves would most likely have the option to engage in platooning, where multiple cars drive very close to each and act as one unit. Some people believe platooning would decrease highway accidents because the cars would be communicating and reacting to each other simultaneously, without the on-going distractions that drivers face.
In some of Google’s tests, the cars learned the details of a road by driving on it several times, and when it was time to drive itself, it was able to identify when there were pedestrians crossing and stopped to let them pass by. Self-driving cars could make transportation safer for all of us by eliminating the cause of 95 percent of today’s accidents: human error [source: Truong].
Although self-driving cars may seem far off, GM has already done its own testing and some people believe that you’ll see some sort of self-driving car in showrooms in the next few years.
- Bey, Thomas. “Top 10 Future Vehicle Technologies.” Ask Men. (Dec. 15, 2011) http://www.askmen.com/top_10/cars/top-10-future-vehicle-technology_4.html
- Birch, Stuart. “External airbag slows car in a crash.” Telegraph. June 11, 2009. (Dec. 15, 2011) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/road-safety/5495705/External-airbag-slows-car-in-a-crash.html
- BMW. “BMW Augmented Reality.” (Dec. 15, 2011) http://www.bmw.com/com/en/owners/service/augmented_reality_introduction_1.html
- Cowen, Tyler. “Can I See Your License, Registration and C.P.U.?” The New York Times. May 28, 2011. (Dec. 14, 2011) http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/29/business/economy/29view.html