Vehicle-to-vehicle communications – it’s a whole new language

The inclement weather has created dangerous conditions on the roads. After your car maneuvers around a bend in the road, you encounter a collision. Your vehicle assesses the critical situation and relays the relevant information to nearby cars. Traffic farther away also receives warnings and is given sufficient time to respond to the situation. In cases of traffic congestion, drivers are given detour directions around the obstruction.

This type of “car talk” is a developing language in the world of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications. New vehicles will soon be equipped with the ability to detect, assess and communicate potentially dangerous traffic situations to drivers. While passive safety aspects may still need to be improved, many vehicle manufacturers have focused their efforts on real-time active safety features. One goal of the automotive engineer is to produce vehicles that take on the role of sender, receiver, or router.

Until recently, active safety features have mostly been relegated to luxury vehicles with expensive radar and / or laser sensors. To help protect passengers from potential collisions, Volvo, for example, offers a number of active safety features. The Volvo S80 is available with collision detection and mitigation systems, which alert the driver of an imminent collision and, if unavoidable, preload the brakes for quick activation and mitigate the crash.

Currently, the development of an open wireless protocol, such as Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC), allows manufacturers to develop V2V systems for more moderately priced vehicles. Like Wi-Fi, prototype systems transmit vehicle speed, GPS location, and braking information. The idea is that other nearby vehicles equipped with V2V capabilities can also receive and process those signals. Once fully integrated, the vehicles can provide drivers with blind spot warnings, alert drivers of approaching vehicles at high speeds, and automatically perform emergency braking.

Other warning systems employ V2V communications to alert the driver to take defensive action in situations where the approaching vehicle is not yet visible but poses a potential threat. For example, when the vehicle approaches an intersection or attempts to turn right, the system can warn the driver of a potential collision with an oncoming vehicle while accelerating after a stop, even when the driver is unaware.

One challenge is that only as manufacturers increase the number of vehicles on the market equipped with V2V systems will the technology achieve greater efficiency. Meanwhile, however, government agencies are also considering technology for vehicle-to-vehicle communications and road infrastructure, such as traffic lights and traffic monitoring systems.

According to the Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) that coordinates the research programs of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), 21,000 of the 43,000 deaths that occur annually on U.S. highways are the result of vehicles leaving the road or traveling unsafe through intersections. Wireless communication, backed by DSRC, is a technology that these entities are also developing to help save lives and prevent injuries on the roads.

Data transmitted from the roadside to a vehicle (known as vehicle-to-interface communication – V2I) could warn the driver that it is unsafe to enter an intersection. In the meantime, the vehicles would serve as data collectors, anonymously transmitting information on traffic and road conditions from all major roads within the transportation network. This information would provide transportation agencies with the information necessary to implement strategies to alleviate traffic congestion.

Since there are so many safety applications, both vehicle manufacturers and government agencies will continue to explore the development of this technology. With the help of V2V and V2I communications, road safety will be improved. And it is surely a language that consumers will be eager to adopt.

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