Cars con­nected to ev­ery­thing in the works

Ford road tests tech­nol­ogy de­vel­oped with tech giants Pana­sonic, Qual­comm

Calgary Herald - - DRIVING - BRIAN HARPER Driv­

DEN­VER I have seen the fu­ture and it works. We just have to wait for it.

Un­like Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist and so­cial ac­tivist Lin­coln St­ef­fens, who orig­i­nally wrote that line nearly 100 years ago, I’ve just had a glimpse of talk­ing cars, and not the “your door is ajar” va­ri­ety. It’s more like a much po­liter ver­sion of “hit the brakes, dummy. You’re about to get into an accident.”

This is not just some ad­vanced ver­sion of for­ward-col­li­sion warn­ing or other ex­ist­ing crashavoid­ance tech­nol­ogy. No, it’s much more com­pli­cated and way cooler. It’s also def­i­nitely not ready for prime time.

Ford Mo­tor Com­pany, Pana­sonic North Amer­ica and Qual­comm Tech­nolo­gies have part­nered to of­fer some­thing called Cel­lu­lar Ve­hi­cle to Ev­ery­thing (C-V2X) di­rect com­mu­ni­ca­tion, which, when per­fected, will con­nect ve­hi­cles, roads and re­gional traf­fic man­age­ment cen­tres to im­prove safety and traf­fic ef­fi­ciency as the auto in­dus­try pro­gresses “to­ward more ca­pa­ble and co-op­er­a­tive au­to­mated ve­hi­cles.”

Colorado has agreed to be the guinea pig in the first U.S. de­ploy­ment of C-V2X tech­nol­ogy. Its Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion and Pana­sonic have es­tab­lished a part­ner­ship to in­te­grate con­nected ve­hi­cle tech­nol­ogy in the state, with a rather lofty goal to be­come accident-free through tech­nol­ogy.

If you have even a basic un­der­stand­ing of V2V (ve­hi­cle-to-ve­hi­cle) tech, you’re start­ing to see the larger pic­ture. V2V is de­signed to al­low ve­hi­cles — and/or road­side units — to com­mu­ni­cate with each other, pro­vid­ing traf­fic in­for­ma­tion and safety warn­ings, thereby help­ing to mit­i­gate or avoid ac­ci­dents and traf­fic sna­fus. (The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion says road ac­ci­dents cause more than a mil­lion deaths a year as well as some 50 mil­lion in­juries.)

Ford be­lieves C-2VX is the tech­nol­ogy with the most po­ten­tial to al­low the cars and ci­ties of the fu­ture to com­mu­ni­cate quickly, safely and se­curely.

“Global adop­tion of C-V2X can de­liver ve­hi­cles that help ci­ties around the world cre­ate a safer en­vi­ron­ment where people can move more freely,” said Don But­ler, Ford ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of con­nected ve­hi­cle and ser­vices, speak­ing at the 2018 Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Show (CES) in Las Ve­gas. Which is why the com­pany has teamed up with Qual­comm to ex­plore its po­ten­tial. Al­ready, Ford has 700,000 con­nected ve­hi­cles on the road. By next year, every new Ford ve­hi­cle built for the United States will, via mo­dem, have the abil­ity to in­ter­act with the new ser­vices and city sys­tems once they are in­tro­duced.

But­ler said that by us­ing ad­vanced wire­less tech­nolo­gies in the mo­bile “ecosys­tem,” C-V2X al­lows ve­hi­cles to com­mu­ni­cate di­rectly with other ve­hi­cles ( V2V ), pedes­trian de­vices such as smart­phones ( V2P), and road­way in­fra­struc­ture such as traf­fic signs or con­struc­tion zones ( V2I).

“These com­mu­ni­ca­tions can take place with or without net­work as­sis­tance, cov­er­age or a cel­lu­lar sub­scrip­tion, which means im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion can be con­veyed re­li­ably at crit­i­cal mo­ments.”

Ac­cord­ing to Pana­sonic, C-V2X is de­signed to be glob­ally com­pat­i­ble with 5G and com­ple­ment other ad­vanced driver-as­sis­tance sys­tems sen­sors, such as cam­eras, radar and li­dar (light de­tec­tion and radar), which are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly com­mon in newer cars and trucks.

“Think of sen­sors such as li­dar as the eyes,” says Jo­van Za­ga­jac, Ford’s man­ager of con­nected ve­hi­cle tech­nol­ogy. “V2V is the ears.”

Demon­stra­tions of the fu­ture of C-V2X took place at Pana­sonic’s CityNOW head­quar­ters in Den­ver. Brief yet im­pres­sive, they pro­vided a sam­pling of the part­ner­ship’s shared safety vi­sion. Five sce­nar­ios were set up on roads within the busi­ness park. With John Cardillo, con­nected ve­hi­cle tech­ni­cal spe­cial­ist for Ford, at the wheel of a fully wired up Taurus, we tested the ef­fi­ciency of V2V com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

The first de­mon­stra­tion was of what he called “elec­tronic emer­gency brake light,” which alerts the driver of a hard brak­ing event down the road. With an­other car a lit­tle far­ther up the road and a pickup in be­tween block­ing vis­i­bil­ity, that car ham­mered the brakes. Al­most im­me­di­ately au­di­ble beeps and a bright cau­tion alert on the cen­tre con­sole touch screen in­di­cated the po­ten­tial crash sce­nario, and Cardillo hit the Taurus’s brakes in re­sponse.

The next four demon­stra­tions in­cluded “in­ter­sec­tion move­ment as­sist,” which is de­signed to pre­vent a T-bone accident, such as from a red-light run­ner or dis­tracted driver; “sin­gle phase and tim­ing,” which pro­vides in­for­ma­tion to the ve­hi­cle of the next phase of the traf­fic sig­nals and will also alert you to a po­ten­tial red-lightrun­ning vi­o­la­tion; “pedes­trian cross­ing” — also known as “vul­ner­a­ble road users” — warn­ing driv­ers of pedes­tri­ans or bi­cy­clists on the road; and “left-turn as­sist,” de­signed to warn a driver who has sig­nalled an in­tent to turn left that an on­com­ing ve­hi­cle is quickly ap­proach­ing. In each case, V2V com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween cars or V2P from the pedes­trian alerted us well in ad­vance of a po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion.

And that’s just the be­gin­ning. In time, as But­ler told the au­di­ence at CES, “even stop­lights could in­form ve­hi­cles head­ing to­ward an in­ter­sec­tion of an accident or emer­gency, while cell tow­ers could re­ceive in­for­ma­tion about po­ten­tial bar­ri­ers and re­lay that news to other ve­hi­cles.” Traf­fic con­ges­tion, if not elim­i­nated, could be dras­ti­cally re­duced.

Much work still has to be done be­fore V2V be­comes an ac­cepted safety de­vice in fu­ture ve­hi­cles. Fore­most is reach­ing crit­i­cal mass: hav­ing enough ve­hi­cles on the road with modems that will al­low com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Just as im­por­tant, car com­pa­nies will have to fig­ure out how to dis­play V2V in­for­ma­tion and warn­ings in such a way as to pri­or­i­tize po­ten­tial safety is­sues with the car’s other ac­ci­den­tavoid­ance tech­nolo­gies without dis­tract­ing the driver.

I have seen the fu­ture — and it’s fas­ci­nat­ing.


Ford’s Cel­lu­lar Ve­hi­cle to Ev­ery­thing (C-V2X) sys­tem will, among other things, warn mo­torists of dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions ahead of them.

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