Looking beyond the telematics mandates


Autonomous driving and intelligent road transportation systems, for many, conjure up visions of vehicles navigating in accordance with reactive sensors and gathered data through vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) while drivers take more of a back seat.

Already, technological features once considered a luxury are becoming a necessity and, while frivolous gadgets are desirable, consumers’ primary concern remains that of safety. Naturally, once consumer demands for technology that improves their safety dovetails with commercial imperatives, provisions for new mandates are made.

Today, in the US, aspects of V2V are on the cusp of being mandated while in Europe, the remote SOS system eCall has, after 15 years of political pontificating over data privacy issues, at last become a legal requirement. As of March 2018 all new cars and light vans must have the system, which is expected to save 2500 lives a year, installed as standard, adding around £65 to the cost of a new vehicle. 

Robert Gee, head of product management, software and connected solutions at Continental said: “eCall is beneficial and is something we see working with our telematics customers worldwide. There are cases where drivers are unable to respond, if they’ve been in an accident and are unconscious for example, so now that eCall is a legal requirement, it will be interesting to see how well the system works in Europe.”

How long, then, will it be before V2V experiences similar mandatory pressures?

“It still has to go through our rule making which could take 18 months, a typical timeline,” said Gee. “As we saw with backward cameras that were mandated four years ago, the expectation was that they would become mandatory within one or two years but it took about four years before the studies were complete and the final testing was done. Typical rulemaking takes a year to a year-and-a-half then you have final specifications before a staged rollout over a six-year period. So with V2V, even if rulemaking started now, it probably wouldn’t mean a 100% requirement for all new cars until 2021 or 2022.”

One option for autonomous cars in future is to create specific lanes or specific roads for them, something that could work well for commercial enterprises such as freight shipments but Gee emphasises that any major changes to transport infrastructure, from the planning to the final execution is an even longer process.

“There are socio-economic issues to consider and making major adjustments to existing infrastructure is a ten to twenty year process.”

More immediate concerns surround the implementation methodology of bidirectional communication and the ongoing subject of driver distraction. Ironically, many of the warning systems introduced to help improve driver and pedestrian safety are now considered potential hazards, something that, as V2V and V2I evolve and potentially merge, amount to serious considerations for automakers across the board.

Presidentof the Connected Vehicle Trade Association, Scott McCormick said:“There are always people from other industries who think that they can port their tablet or phone applications to the car. But you can’t, because the user interface is diametrically opposed; these devices demand your attention and there’s only a two-second window before drivers have to return their attention to the road. There’s a cognitive load limitation to what the human brain can tolerate. Breaching that, even with safety alerts, increases the risk of incidents.”

In addition, increased automation poses a strange problem in that drivers, believing the car to ultimately be in control, are likely to become complacent behind the wheel.

McCormickpointed out: “Becoming over reliant on the car is a distraction of its own and handing a series of processes over to the machine isn’t the same as being autonomous – it just means that certain functions are automated. The driver still has to be in the loop, and paying attention.

Looking to the future of V2V, McCormick explains the existing tier of responses that an automated car should naturally follow highlighting why, in extreme circumstances, even tiered responses are insufficient to be regarded as safe responses in the complex environment of busy roads.

“If you’re driving along and something catastrophic happens to the car – say a chunk of concrete falls down from a bridge –you’re forced to make a number of split second decisions such as: do I veer into the car with the “baby on board sign” and a young woman in the front; do I going swerve toward the man with a disability badge; or do I nose-dive off the side of the road? Whatever choice you make as a driver, it’s a human judgment that could also be classified as a human error. But if the vehicle makes the choice – if it has a decision-making algorithm and chooses to ram into the car with the baby on board sign, your getting into algorithmic morality and big questions hang over the morality choice of that decision line.”

But McCormick suggests that the biggest technological disruption in the relatively near future will be 5G point-to-point. With this forthcoming technology, the car becomes its own point of reference, capable of communicating further than is currently possible with dedicated short-range communications (DSRC), which has a range of about 300 feet.

“We don’t know how far the signal could go because it’s somewhat theoretical at the moment but it would probably be at least a thousand feet. And the further out you can go with the signal the more utility you get from the messaging. DSRC is the lowest level of latency communication right now, so if the car in front of you is slamming on its brakes, that’s what you want to have; you don’t want bidirectional signals running up to cellular or satellite and back again because it’s too slow but, with 5G, it could be possible.”

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