Cars can talk to each other in the US
In February 2014 the US Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that it will start allowing V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) communication technology. This will let cars exchange basic safety data, as well as information about road and traffic conditions and vehicle-specific information such as speed and position, up to ten times per second.
Signals from other cars, sent through a modified version of Wi-Fi, can help flag up potential risks. This technology may help people avoid most of the crashes involving two or more cars and has been shown to increase safety in the real world as well as in test environments. Though V2V does send out warnings, it does not take over vehicle systems such as braking or steering.
Tested on the street
In August 2012, UMTRI (University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute) installed built-in connected technology into 2 500 cars in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Another 300 cars as well as some motorcycles, buses and commercial trucks had communications devices added into them that allowed them to communicate with each other and the road infrastructure. This test lasted for a year and used cameras outside and inside the vehicles to see how drivers reacted to warnings.
Eight major car companies participated in the tests. They used different warning systems, including red LED lights on the bottom of the windscreen, alarms and vibrating seats as well as graphics in the instrument panel. The test also looked at the interoperability of V2V technology in vehicles from different manufacturers and suppliers.
Car-to-x communication in Germany
In June 2013, the final phase of the simTD (Safe Intelligent Mobility – Test Area Germany) project began examining the "first social network for automobiles". One hundred and twenty vehicles and three motorcycles were tested in a venture that linked vehicles and infrastructure in an electronic network with the aim of avoiding traffic jams and accidents and to report on a range of other applications. The overall project, which began back in 2008, is funded by the German Government. The research element is headed by Daimler Research and Advance Development while a number of other companies are also participating, looking at the functionality, efficacy and feasibility for everyday use of car-to-x communication – a combination of V2V and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication – under real driving conditions.
The radio technology developed for this system is based on the wireless local area network. Its purpose is to increase safety as well as to minimize traffic, which will hopefully save drivers time on the road, lower their fuel and vehicle maintenance costs and reduce CO2 emissions.
The launch plan for simTD is a voluntary one. Starting in 2015 the simTD technology will be used near road construction sites as part of a public-private partnership signed up to by the Austrian, German and Dutch transport/infrastructure ministries and called "Cooperative ITS Corridor Rotterdam - Frankfurt am Main – Vienna".
The trials will benefit drivers by showing them their travel history and the congestion on the routes they are taking and will help them understand the best strategies to employ during rush hour. It can warn of traffic delays but it is not meant to warn drivers of impending accidents.
New technologies require safer components
To ensure that the technologies being developed for vehicles around the world are reliable, IECQ (IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components) created a programme that gives the automotive industry a standardized way of testing the components in those technologies. IECQ AQP (Automotive Qualification Programme) helps automotive manufacturers avoid multiple tests and related costs. It can also be used by independent, third-party certification bodies to make sure that components meet automotive industry standards.
As the technologies that allow cars to talk to each other and to infrastructure take off, with multiple similar projects running throughout the world, people will come to rely on the warnings their car is giving them. If the components that underpin these technologies are not certified by IECQ AQP, there will be no way of knowing whether or not they will fail at a crucial moment.
Organizations that hold IECQ Automotive Qualification Programme Certification show the international market that they and their facilities comply with the requirements of the IECQ System. These organizations are also demonstrating that they comply with the relevant declared technical Standards and specifications for their scope of activity.
The future may bring us cars that help keep us safe and speed up our trips during rush hour but IECQ will continue to ensure that the electronic and electrical components in our vehicles do not fail us when we need them most.