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If Only Cars Could Talk…

The autonomous vehicle continues to generate buzz, capturing the attention of transportation experts and urban planners in every major city around the globe. But the simple fact is that autonomy, no matter how good it is, isn’t good enough. Our cars need to communicate with each other and with the infrastructure around them; and this feat is potentially more transformative than building the first autonomous car will ever be!

At present, we are building autonomy into existing cars like active braking; where your car can decide to take action without your intervention; but this is still a defensive tactic taken with zero communication with the other vehicles or infrastructure in the immediate area.

The next innovation beyond autonomy involves the rapid sharing of information between vehicles and vehicle to infrastructure. This transformation will be akin to taking a stand-alone laptop and switching on the WiFi. Connected systems are inherently more aware, more predictable, more efficient, and begin to act like a single well oiled machine. The current lack of communication between vehicles is like trying to share information before WiFi and the Internet existed; via a series of beeps of the horn, flashing of headlamps, and the occasional choice comment yelled out of the window.

In addition to the obvious safety advantages, the introduction of vehicle-to-vehicle communication will spell the death of the traffic light, stop signs, maybe even the maligned speed bump. Connected intersections could dynamically manage the flow of traffic; taking over control from fully autonomous and semi autonomous vehicles; guiding the vehicle quickly and safely through complex traffic patterns; while giving priority for emergency vehicles.

Vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology is currently being tested and is estimated to be commonplace in next ten years, if not sooner. Major automakers including Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Honda Motor Co., Hyundai Motor Co., Daimler AG, Nissan Motor Corp., Toyota Motor Corp., and Volkswagen AG have been developing and testing vehicle-to-vehicle communications.

The CAR 2 CAR Communication Consortium, a nonprofit, industry driven organization initiated by European vehicle manufacturers, is looking to improve road traffic safety and efficiency by developing roadmaps for vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications and is making progress on harmonizing the related standards.

Equipping fully autonomous and semi autonomous vehicles with advanced communications capabilities will empower vehicles to have situational awareness and drastically mitigate avoidable accidents. It will lead to less stop-and-go traffic, increased fuel/battery efficiency, and best of all faster travel times and less headache!

So buckle up and kick back, some big changes are happening to the auto industry; autonomy was big, but communication will be bigger!

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