Cars driving one after another, all slowing down as soon as the first one uses brakes? Your car display informing you of a huge traffic jam ahead and advising that you can take a train from the nearest station in a few minutes instead? These ideas sound like science-fiction but they are already being tested by automotive corporations; they will be included in V2X systems.
V2X systems belong to the newest generation of ITS (Intelligent Transport System) class solutions. They include V2V (vehicle to vehicle) and V2I (vehicle to infrastructure) tools and systems. These have been designed to allow the exchange of information between vehicles and roadside infrastructure (such as road signs or traffic lights) as well as between different vehicles. The data exchange is very fast due to the use of radio waves. This means that the speed of sending and receiving information is much bigger than what GPS or GSM networks can offer.
Practical use of V2X
How do the systems work, though? The V2V tools installed in your car, which are connected to its computer, inform other cars of such events as engaging the ABS. The displays of other vehicles will show this information when they get close to the spot where your car had to use the ABS. Other drivers can be informed of traffic jams, accidents and other events in a similar way. V2I systems allow roadside infrastructure to communicate with vehicles using the same type of data exchange; your car can be informed of speed limits or difficult conditions by the road itself. These solutions are already tested on European roads, in Vienna and Prague. In the future they are to be introduced on all roads which belong to the European Corridor. For now, the real pioneer in using the V2X systems is Japan, with Toyota already selling cars featuring the V2X.
ITS Connect, or V2V and V2I on Japanese roads
The Japanese have integrated the V2V and V2I systems into one solution called ITS Connect. The main aim of ITS Connect is to prevent collisions on crossroads; it has been proven that 40% of all accidents happen on crossroads. This means that one of the key functions of the system is to support the driver while turning left. The system monitors the situation at the junction and informs the driver (using light and sound signals) if turning may be dangerous due to any obstacles on the way; the signals are emitted as soon as the driver stops using the brakes. ITS Connect will also emit light and sound signals if the car is driving towards the red light and the driver is not slowing down. It will also make driving smoother as it has been designed to inform the driver of the time left until the lights change to green to reduce the time taken to start the car.
The system also features active cruise control which reacts to other cars changing speed in close proximity by adjusting the speed of the car it is controlling. It can even inform the driver of any emergency vehicles on the way by showing which way they are going and how far they are. Interestingly, ITS Connect is no longer bound to be tested in labs only. Since October 2015, it is available in Toyota Crown, a sedan which is very popular in Japan. By the end of 2015, it is also to be installed in the 4th generation of Toyota Prius.
V2X in the American Delphi
V2X is also tested on the other side of the ocean: in the USA. In March/April 2015 Delphi, an automatic vehicle, drove across the whole US, from San Francisco on the west coast to New York on the east. It took it 9 days to drive the distance of 5,500 km (the Delphi crossed 15 states). 99% of the time the car was steered automatically. It had no problem driving on the roads, in roundabouts, tunnels, on bridges and in places where driving was difficult because of roadside maintenance works. The Delphi researchers gathered more than 3 TB of data which will be used for further development of the project. The Delphi also featured the V2V and V2I systems which allowed it to wirelessly communicate with other vehicles and roadside infrastructure and made it possible to use the radar, cameras and other systems supporting the driver in a more efficient way.
We will not be able to make the most of the V2X systems immediately, of course. They need to become a standard feature in the majority of cars, and then the infrastructure must be rebuilt to enable proper communication. This means that we may need to wait for a dozen, or even a few dozen years to see this kind of solutions used on a daily basis. Still, the development of such technologies is an important step which brings us closer to a major improvement in driving safety. Sadly, it will also deprive us of privacy and satisfaction with driving.