Cars connected to everything in the works
Ford road tests technology developed with tech giants Panasonic, Qualcomm
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.