Those of you who are of a “certain age” may well remember the song Car 6-7, the lyrics of which tell the sad story of a taxi driver who has split up from his girlfriend, and is turning down a pick-up from control, as it’s the ex-girlfriend.
That was back in November 1978, and the old-fashioned two-way VHF radios used in taxi cabs have been largely been updated, and to a certain extent have been superseded by smart phones and booking software.
We have all become used to very sophisticated communications systems; Bluetooth earpieces and microphones, Wi-Fi internet connections, cordless phones and smart speakers such as Alexa.
Modern cars are no exceptions. My car has a Bluetooth system that will support two mobile phones; My 2013 motorcycle has the same.
Well, it was in 2017 when it rolled off the production line in Kvasiny in the Czech Republic.
But things are changing fast, and we are now moving into the world of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS).
ITS is a futuristic totally integrated transport system that uses an infrastructure of sensors, communications links, artificial intelligence and algorithms to monitor and manage traffic flow, safety and incidents. Data collected may also be used to help design safer and more efficient transport systems, which may be optimised for different conditions.
We are already using a very basic kind of ITS; We have CCTV cameras that remotely monitor our motorways and road networks. Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras that are able to identify and trackthe driving behaviour of a specific vehicle, and monitor entry and exit times of vehicles using private car parking facilities.
We have under-road systems that monitor the volume and speed of traffic – (You may have wondered about those geometric grids in each lane of the motorway placed at regular intervals?), speed-monitoring enforcement cameras mounted on overhead gantries, and Variable Message Signs (VMSs)
All of these systems will look like they came out of the stone age when compared with what’s coming very soon.
Intelligent Transport Systems combine data that comes from a variety of sources.
One of the sources of dynamic data are vehicles that are actually using the road network.
Cars have recently become a lot smarter. My ancient vehicle (4 years old) is just about capable of talking to my smart phone.
New vehicles will be able to communicate on many different levels.
Imagine, if you will, a car that is able to independently communicate with other, similarly equipped vehicles.This is the most basic system, referred to as V2V
Cars are already fitted with Autonomous Driver Assistance Systems which include obstacle detection, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning systems, and adaptive cruise control. See my previous article entitled Autonomous Vehicle Safety Devices – Do you turn YOURS off? for details.
Maybe the car ahead detects an obstacle, and applies the emergency brakes. This information in instantaneously broadcast to all following vehicles, and this in turn allows them to begin braking – before a human driver is even aware that an emergency exists.
Vehicles may also be designed to interact with the infrastructure (traffic signals, traffic density and speed monitors, road condition sensors etc). This is known as V2I.
A V2V/V2I equipped vehicle starts to lose traction on a wet road, and begins aquaplaning. A message is sent from the vehicle to other vehicles, and also to the fixed highway infrastructure. The infrastructure may then automatically activate warning signs and reduce speed limits accordingly.
This is not science fiction. This is Science Fact.
Infrastructure sensors that continually monitor the depth of water on the road surface and the road surface temperature already exist, and are integrated into the ITS.
The UK’s Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) have been operating a sophisticated network of subsurface sensors that are capable of accurately detecting overloaded Heavy Goods Vehicles. This system is known as WIMS, short for Weight In Motion Sensors. This uses induction loops and special sensors to detect the weight being carried by each axle of the truck in question. When combined with ANPR cameras, the system will identify the vehicle, and also be able to calculate whether it is overloaded, and whether it is complying with the speed limit.
Other car communications systems enable the vehicle to exchange data with the wider internet of things, and may also inter-exchange with other transport modes. This is known as Vehicle to Cloud (V2C). This would enable a vehicle to be able to communicate with trains, aircraft ships and exchange other relevant data.
Lastly, cars will also be able to communicate with pedestrians. (V2P). This would allow vehicles to update pedestrians on their status, and speed of approach. Such information could be received by the pedestrian by using a smart phone.
Cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, farm vehicles and even bicycles will all become part of a communicating interactive network, and ultimately connected to the global internet of things.
Combine the automated on-board driver assistance systems with the benefits of a smart, thinking and proactive transport network, and road safety may show some dramatic improvements.
Currently in the UK, about 40% all vehicle accidents were as a direct result on a driver “failing to see” the other vehicle.
In our brave new world, your car probably won’t let you pull out of that junction as its already identified an approaching car, assessed the risk, and calculated that there would be a collision! That’s assuming that both cars are V2V/V2I equipped.
Old duffers like me driving a 2017 model will still have to rely on the Mark I eyeball, and the basic training received nearly 45 years ago.
The old saying that the best safety device in a car was a well-trained driver may no longer be true.
Live Long and Prosper…
 MIDAS – Motorway Incident Detection and Auto-Signalling. An Induction loops system that senses a vehicles presence using magnetism.