The basic concept
To find an introduction into the subject, it makes sense to look into the essential terms of connected driving firstly. There is a fundamental distinction between V2I and V2V.
V2I (also called C2I) stands for Vehicle-to-Infrastructure. This describes the communication between a vehicle and the infrastructure. In this case, infrastructure means facilities in or nearby the streets, for example in traffic lights or in the concrete, gathering global and local data concerning the traffic and the road conditions. This data can then lead to the infrastructure suggesting a certain behavior to vehicles in a defined area or even forcing it on them.
For example, it would be possible to recommend the speed, acceleration and distance to other vehicles based on the current traffic conditions. This serves the purpose of optimizing pollutant emissions, fuel consumption and the pace of the traffic in general.
The second important term is V2V (also called C2C), meaning Vehicle-to-Vehicle. This refers to the communication of vehicles among each other. Theoretically, this should work as follows: if two or more cars or street facilities are in range for communication, they establish an Ad-hoc network (Vehicular Ad Hoc Network VANET) which allows for sharing the position, speed and direction of travel of the vehicles. Each vehicle can be seen as a router that can be used to send messages to even more distant vehicles.
V2V is more difficult to implement as the structure is very decentralized. This means that every car has to feature the appropriate technology, not only the infrastructure of the streets. Furthermore, V2V is reliant on the collaboration of different car manufacturers and suppliers concerning communication technology, protocols and so on.
For such a system to function properly, security technology is needed locally as well as on higher levels. The system has to be able to take automatic and semi-automatic decisions to express warnings or to eventually influence the manner of driving of the vehicle directly. Insecurities, delays in the evaluation of data as well as security issues have to be constantly taken in account while doing so.
The Vienna Convention on Road Traffic is an international treaty for the facilitation of international road traffic and for the increase of road safety in effect since 21.05.1977. Until the end of March 2014, following guideline applied: «Each driver has to be capable of controlling his vehicle at all times.» This was contradictory to certain aspects of V2I and V2V. Should these technologies be able to directly influence the way of driving, this treaty had to be adjusted.
Luckily, this is exactly what happened: systems that can affect the conduct of a vehicle are now permitted, granted that the driver can overrule or disable them at all times. For example, this regulatory framework enables the use of autonomous cruise control systems that include the distance to the vehicle running in front in the speed regulation. This is an important step in the direction of connected driving.
The totally autonomous steering of a vehicle demands for a further adaption of the treaty however. Right now, only natural persons are defined as driver of a vehicle. Autonomous systems with full control over a vehicle are not equated with humans.
Advances in the field of connected driving
With the CAR2CAR Konsortium, an important consortium for road safety improvement and traffic efficiency was established. It comprises 80 members, including 16 market-leading car manufacturers, 36 suppliers of interior parts and 28 research organisations. The consortium focuses on V2V applications as well as establishing standards to guarantee the compatibility between different systems, enabling all vehicles to communicate with each other and with infrastructure facilities irrespective of the car brand or the country. CAR2CAR considers the launch of the first cooperatively communicating vehicles in 2019 very possible.
To ensure that the wireless transmission of signals from vehicles to other vehicles or to the infrastructure doesn’t interfere with other signals like those of toll gates, the consortium has to do further research. Additionally, there are doubts concerning privacy and security that have to be tackled. The consortiums is looking to develop standards conforming to both European and American law.
Furthermore, at least 10-15% of all vehicles in traffic should be equipped with such technologies for a meaningful introduction. However, equipping vehicles with a wireless LAN module, a control unit, displays for the driver and so on is pretty costly, especially in the initial stages. In spite of the large-scale collaboration of market-leading forces of the automotive industry, there are regulatory and political hurdles that have to be overcome prior to the commercial launch of intelligent vehicles.
The cons of connected driving
The foregoing development towards connected driving doesn’t delight every single one of us. There are some points of criticism concerning the innovative communication systems:
- There is a risk that users would rely too strongly on the technology and would be driving carelessly in absence of warning messages, even though pedestrians crossing the street or a bicyclist that fell down could possibly not be captured by the warning system, for example.
- Falsifying or manipulating such warning messages would have to be prevented at all costs. Therefore, such messages have to feature an electronic signature that can be easily checked. Securing the anonymity of the users comes into play here as V2I and V2V should in no way serve the purpose of data collection but only the purpose of traffic security.
- Protection of data privacy is one of the biggest question marks in V2V and V2I. The amount of personal data that is gathered as well as the processing thereof should be kept as limited as possible. Data should only be collected if it is indispensable for the proper functioning of the technology.
The pros of connected driving
Besides the critique that certainly deserves its due attention, connected driving also brings substantial advantages over traditional traffic as it exists today:
- Increase of traffic efficiency: Traffic is constantly rising, a plus of 13% in passenger traffic and a plus of 38% in freight traffic is expected by 2030. With connected driving, the daily conditions of traffic could be used to full capacity to avoid traffic jams and traffic congestions. The existing network of roads could be used much more efficiently, resulting in a considerably lower pressure of expanding it.
- Increase of traffic security: In 2014, 90% of traffic accidents could be attributed to human error. Here, enormous potential of assistance systems exists. They can support the driver in the traffic to improve the security. Systems that are already being used like the lane departure warning system or the collision avoidance system can be expected to be continuously improved as the research in the field of connected driving advances, therefore additionally contributing to traffic security.
- Reduction of environmental pollution in traffic: traffic jams and traffic congestions can lead to increased fuel consumption and therefore to increased pollution compared to traffic with constantly moving cars. If the flow of traffic is continually increased by connected driving, movements of accelerating and decelerating can be reduced, subsequently reducing the fuel consumption and the pollutant emissions.
Status quo in driver assistance and connected driving exemplified by Mercedes.
Overall, it can be said that connected driving will bring big improvements for daily traffic. With regard to the great collaboration of the Car2Car consortium, we are confident that regulatory and political obstacles will be overcome, enabling the automotive industry to profit from the technological possibilities that are presenting themselves.
With a safe system working with little data that guarantees the communication among vehicles and infrastructure across all car manufacturers, the traffic of the future could be cheaper, safer and a lot more comfortable everyone that is involved. We will take a close look on the development of the next years and keep you informed.