V2X telematics: From testing to tipping point

V2X telematics: From testing to tipping point

More than 40,000 vehicular deaths occur each year, but while information and entertainment telematics gain traction, vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2X) communication still lags.

V2X telematics can, for example, alert cars to traffic jams ahead or warn drivers when they are rapidly approaching a red-light intersection. The interaction of cars and roadside infrastructure can save lives and thin out traffic, through everything from automatic emergency calls to intelligent traffic lights.

Yet wide-scale progress has yet to be seen.

Experts differ on how to increase V2X standardization and penetration across the globe so that cars and their surroundings can communicate in order to increase driver safety.

Ilja Radusch, head of automotive services and communication technologies at the Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communications Systems in Berlin, looks to governments to kick start investment in V2X.

“You need to start,” he argues, even though governments may be reluctant to assume the cost of building and maintaining V2X roadside devices.

Donald Grimm, a senior researcher at General Motors, agrees, but points out that car manufacturers are wary for the same reasons. “As a carmaker, we’re a bit uncertain what’s going to be there,” he says. “We are happy to take advantage of infrastructure when it’s there, especially from a safety point of view, but it’s unclear what we can rely on being there.”

Start with the cars

Thomas Strang, a professor at Austria’s Innsbruck University, thinks the development of V2X communications has to start with car companies. His reasoning: Without standardized telematics throughout the industry, infrastructure telematics just wouldn’t work. Traffic-jam warnings sent from intelligent traffic lights, for instance, need to be able to send and receive data from all types of cars from any country.

Still, there is collaboration among car companies, governments and OEMs. In states like California, Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia, researchers are testing ‘signal phase and timing’ (SPaT) boxes at intersections, including 57 in Detroit. The Florida DOT has installed 25 roadside units to test as well.

The controllers communicate advisory information to equipped vehicles, such as warning drivers that the upcoming light is red. SPaT signals travel up to a quarter-mile (300 meters) and broadcast alerts to drivers going too fast as they come to a red-light or yellow-light intersection. The controller box can even relay brake pulses—short brake applications—to reinforce the message. “Controlling the breaks altogether is a possibility,” Grimm notes.

German car manufacturers like Audi, BMW, Daimler, Opal and Volkswagen, as well as OEMs Bosch and Continental, have put together a fleet of test cars in and around Frankfurt. “No car manufacturer can do this on their own,” says Radusch.

More standardization needed

For V2X to move from testing to tipping point, car companies will have to create more standardization for telematics messages and transmission devices. This will bring costs down and help create faster penetration into the market.

Putting the safety advantages of V2X on the consumers’ mind through press releases and focus groups also helps.

The Crash Avoidance Metrics Partnership (CAMP), a consortium that includes Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai-Kia, Mercedes, Nissan, Toyota and VW-Audi, is testing safety features across the United States.

The goal: To see how drivers feel about the value and effectiveness of V2X telematics systems, including forward-collision warnings and emergency electronic brake lamps that communicate when an e-brake has been pulled in front (and out of site) of the driver.

Once consumers start to understand the benefits of V2X communications, and car companies respond to that demand, Strang feels governments will ramp up the infrastructure. “It’s not that the money isn’t there,” he says. “It’s just that they need the justification to spend.”

Greg T. Spielberg is a regular contributor to TU.

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