Since August, 2012, the US Department of Transportation\’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched a road test of connected vehicle technology, which allows cars to actually communicate with each other. The test is part of ongoing safety research being conducted by the DOT.
The test, called Safety Pilot; Model Deployment, includes nearly three thousand cars, trucks, and transit buses, provided by an array of auto makers including Nissan, Honda, Volkswagen, Ford, Hyundai, and Mercedes Benz.
Since 2002, the DOT has been conducting research with car manufacturers to assess the practicality of developing collision avoidance systems that utilize vehicle-to-vehicle communications.
The test, conducted by the University of Michigan Transportation Institute, will run for a full year, until August of 2013. At the conclusion of testing the NHTSA will assess whether to proceed with additional vehicle-vehicle communication activities and research. The model deployment will cost $25 million, approximately 80 per cent of which is covered by the DOT. Eventual results could lead to actual new rules for drivers and further collaboration with manufacturers.
The connected vehicle technology uses dedicated short-range communications, or DSRC. They are two-way, wireless communication capabilities that work up to 300 meters. The DSRC permit secure, extremely fast data transmissions, critical to active safety systems. The most used message is the basic safety message (BSM), which contains information such as speed and location, and is broadcast to surrounding vehicles up to ten times per second.
There are several different types of connected vehicle safety systems, some more capable than others. Many can be installed while the vehicle is being manufactured, while others are built as aftermarket additions.
A \”fully integrated\” vehicle has an electronic device called an integrated safety system, or ISS. These are installed during vehicle production, and are connected to data busses. They provide highly accurate information using sensors in the vehicle. The ISS can both broadcast and receive BSMs, and processes the content into visual, audio, and/or touch (usually vibration) alerts. The ISS are being developed for lighter vehicles and trucks. Currently there are sixty-four cars and three trucks undergoing \”fully integrated\” testing.
A vehicle awareness device, or VAD, is an aftermarket product installed in the vehicle. It is not connected to the vehicle\’s systems, and is only capable of sending BSMs over a DSRC wireless link. A VAD cannot generate warnings but will transmit the vehicle\’s speed and location, and can be used in any type of car or vehicle.
An aftermarket safety device, or ASD, is installed after the vehicle is manufactured, and can send and receive BSMs from other vehicles over a wireless DSRC link. An ASD provides a driver interface, runs V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) and V2I (vehicle-to-infrastructure) safety applications. The ASD uses audible and/or visual warnings for the driver.
A retrofit safety device is installed in a truck or bus, only by an authorized service provider. The device is connected to a vehicle data bus, and provides accurate information from in-vehicle sensors. This also uses a driver interface, can both send and receive BSMs, and will provide warnings to the driver. The retrofit devices are being developed for transit buses and large trucks.
Each transmitter will send out ten messages per second, and drivers will experience four different safety operations. Forward collision warning warns the driver if s/he fails to brake when a vehicle in front of the driver is stopped or travelling at a slower speed and there is a risk of collision. Lane change and blind spot warning, which warns the driver if there is a car in the blind spot or an overtaking vehicle. Emergency electric brake light warning will notify the driver if a vehicle ahead—or several vehicles ahead—that the drive cannot see, is braking especially hard for some reason. Intersection movement assist warns the driver that it is not safe to enter an intersection, due to something blocking the driver\’s view of crossing traffic.
Also under testing is a system of signal phase and timing, which learns the timing of traffic lights and can increase fuel efficiency, safety, and mobility.
The NHTSA has not yet released information as to the results of testing so far. Information collected from the yearlong initiative will determine whether the DOT will proceed with additional vehicle-to-vehicle technologies. If it is decided that the technology could greatly increase driver safety and traffic mobility, implementation into retail vehicles could be the next step. The NHTSA has confirmed that the DOT continues to work closely with automotive manufacturers, to ensure that the technology will be ready to deploy if and when a decision is made.