The idea of cars that communicate with each other to enhance safety and that drive themselves is counterintuitive. Airplanes, of course, have had autopilot functions for years. But Boeing 757s don’t have to pull into a parking space at Kmart or ease into traffic on the highway.
The reality is that advanced communications is playing a big role in getting from here to there. Indeed, the trend is accelerating. PCWorld and other sites report that the United States Department of Transportation (DoT) is taking steps to implement vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications. The idea is straightforward:
Vehicle-to-vehicle communications refers to the emergence of Wi-Fi-like radios that could be mounted in cars and communicate with one another. Also known as Dedicated Short-Range Communications, V2V car-mounted radios would constantly communicate with other vehicles within range, providing speed and directional data to other cars' safety and navigation systems. The idea is that a car racing around a blind curve would "know" that a car was heading in the opposite direction, or a car would receive warnings that cars ahead were coming to an unexpected stop.
The news this week is important but not earth-shattering: DoT said that within weeks it will publish a report on V2V communications. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, part of DoT, will use that report to create a regulatory framework, which subsequently will be published.
At least at the start, self-driving vehicles will be a bit of a tough sell. Tom’s Guide reports this week on a survey of 2,039 adults commissioned by Seapine Software and conducted by Harris Interactive that found that 79 percent of respondents are “worried” that the equipment in a driverless car would fail and that 59 percent are concerned about liability issues in case of a crash with a vehicle being driven in this manner. The story cites a previous J.D. Power and Associates survey that found that 37 percent of people would ride in a driverless car and that only 20 percent would get the technology if it cost $3,000.
Xconomy’s Sarah Schmid has a very interesting story on what Ford researchers are working on. The company last month partnered with MIT and Stanford University on developing automated driving. It boils down to teaching machines to act like the best drivers:
Essentially, there are three main issues Ford wants to examine in partnership with the Stanford and MIT researchers: the natural limitations of vehicles, teaching the car’s onboard software to pick up on cues from other drivers, and learning to detect situations like an approaching exit ramp so the software can predict why a neighboring car might be suddenly trying to switch lanes.
Various new technologies and families of applications don’t stay separate for long. The next-next big thing will be the melding of two of the most recent innovations: Smart vehicles and wearable computing. ABI Research says that wearable computing will be able to communicate with more than 90 percent of vehicles shipping worldwide in 2019. The release mentioned some products that already are on the market, including the ADA Google Glass integration for ADAS, the Blue Link Glassware application from Hyundai, and the Pebble Digital DriveStyle application, which is a collaboration with Mercedes-Benz.