Toronto Star

The road to becoming interconne­cted

Privacy concerns could delay the inevitable — when cars can ‘talk’ to each other


As a society, we’ve come to not only accept but expect being connected 24/7 — even in our cars. But connectivi­ty in cars can mean different things in different contexts.

In the near future, those meanings are likely to include cars that can effectivel­y “talk” to each other.

At the most basic level of connectivi­ty, a vehicle can be connected to the world of infotainme­nt via Bluetooth cellphone connection­s, GPS navigation systems or satellite radio, as examples.

Almost all new models already offer these connection­s to varying degrees, up to and including active nav- igation with traffic advisories, onboard Wi-Fi hot spots, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay — which effectivel­y make your vehicle an extension of your smartphone.

Beyond infotainme­nt, however, connectivi­ty also plays a role in the advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) that are becoming increasing­ly common across the vehicle range. These systems may include everything from proximity monitors, cross-traffic alerts and blindspot warning systems to adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping and automatic collision-avoidance braking systems — the latter of which will become standard equipment on all models by 2022, if not before.

They also encompass park assist or automatic self-parking systems as well as obstacle-avoidance steering assistance systems, just now coming to market.

These ADAS features can identify a broad range of vehicles, people and other objects around them, but it’s a one-way connection. They don’t really communicat­e back and forth with them. That’s the next step.

A couple years ago, the U.S. Department of Transporta­tion’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administra­tion (NHTSA) announced plans to make vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communicat­ion technologi­es mandatory equipment — effectivel­y letting cars wirelessly connect to and communicat­e with each other.

Now it has followed through on that plan. In December 2016, the agency issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would implement rules requiring mandatory adoption of V2V technology on all cars, SUVs and light trucks within five years.

That notice is open for comment until mid-March, after which some version of it, modified to consider the feedback received, would normally be implemente­d. The fact that the U.S. administra­tion has changed in the interim, however, could mean that such normal expectatio­ns may not be realized.

The case for proceeding with the proposal is strong. By “talking” to each other and sharing data such as speed and position at rates of up to10 times per second, vehicles will be able to go well beyond what today’s self-contained systems can accomplish in terms of determinin­g and helping avoid potentiall­y dangerous situations.

“Once deployed, V2V will provide 360-degree situationa­l awareness on the road,” said outgoing U.S. Transporta­tion Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We are carrying the ball as far as we can to realize the potential of transporta­tion technology to save lives. This long-promised V2V rule is the next step in that progressio­n.”

What that “360-degree situationa­l awareness” means is that cars will be able to electronic­ally “see” each other around corners, for example.

“V2V will provide 360-degree situationa­l awareness on the road. We are carrying the ball as far as we can to realize the potential . . . to save lives.” ANTHONY FOXX U.S. TRANSPORTA­TION SECRETARY

According to NHTSA, the technology will be able to alert drivers of the potential for risks such as: Traffic ahead slowing or stopping; Collision with a vehicle ahead; Collision at an intersecti­on; Collision when making a left turn; A vehicle in a driver’s “blind spot”; Oncoming traffic, such as when attempting to pass another vehicle.

The intent is that this informatio­n will in some way be communicat­ed to the drivers involved so they can take corrective action to avoid a collision. But that’s as far as it goes. As proposed, V2V connectivi­ty is different and separate from ADAS and autonomous driving technologi­es in that it only provides informatio­n.

It does not in any way exercise any control over the vehicle.

It’s not a stretch, however, to see how that informatio­n could be used by such systems to automatica­lly take whatever action is necessary to prevent a collision.

The next step in this technology progressio­n is vehicle-to-infrastruc­ture (V2X) communicat­ion, which would enable vehicles to exchange informatio­n with roadway infrastruc­ture such as traffic lights, stop signs and work zones. NHTSA has already announced plans for adoption of V2X technology, which it says would not only enhance safety but improve mobility and reduce congestion.

One of the challenges in implementi­ng these new technologi­es is concern for privacy.

According to NHTSA, they do not involve the exchange of informatio­n linked to an individual, and the rule will require extensive privacy and security controls in any such devices.

Given that significan­t hurdle still to clear, it may be a while yet before our cars really can talk to each other.

 ?? TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO ?? Connectivi­ty plays a role in advanced driver-assistance systems such as proximity monitors and cross-traffic alerts.
TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO Connectivi­ty plays a role in advanced driver-assistance systems such as proximity monitors and cross-traffic alerts.

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