- Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) systems allow vehicles to gather information from each other, from local communication networks and even from urban infrastructure.
- V2X systems allow self-driving cars to travel more safely and efficiently.
- The V2X technology could reduce accidents, congestion and pollution.
- Early versions of this technology are now being tested.
Foresight Autonomous Holdings Ltd. is developing the Eye-Net cellular V2X system, through Eye-Net Mobile, its subsidiary company. Ford Motor Company has called upon urban authorities to create infrastructure to support V2X. Tesla, Inc. is taking big steps forward in self-driving technology, using the batteries of its electric cars to power sensors, processors and other self-driving systems. NXP Semiconductors N.V. is producing secure connectivity systems for vehicles to combat the threat of someone hacking the controls. Qualcomm, Inc. is providing electronic components for autonomous systems to major car manufacturers.
Bringing Together Self-Driving Technologies
Self-driving technology is no longer a science fiction vision of the future. Not only are motor companies years into trials of automated vehicles, but some of the technology used in that testing is already on the roads. Sensors and processors - the core technology of self-driving vehicles - are being incorporated into modern cars through systems such as adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking and collision detection.
Though incredibly useful, these sensors have limitations, including the ability to detect only what's within a direct line of sight. This can create potentially dangerous situations as the systems fail to detect other vehicles or pedestrians temporarily hidden or outside the sensor's field of view. Fortunately, advances in technology will allow self-driving systems to "see" more of their environment and even gather information that's unavailable to human drivers.
Cars That Talk to the World
The key to unlocking this potential is vehicle-to-everything communication technology, which is being developed by companies such as Foresight Autonomous Holdings Ltd.
V2X is a system where vehicles not only sense the environment around them but also communicate with it. These systems can sense and communicate with:
Infrastructure such as buildings, roads and traffic lights
Homes (the car can be connected to a smart home system)
Networks (gathering and sharing information over cellular networks)
The most immediate use of V2X systems such as Foresight's Eye-Net comes in providing a car with more information about its surrounding environment. No longer reliant just upon its own sensors, the vehicle can detect hidden hazards, obstacles outside the reach of its own sensors, and upcoming issues hidden around corners and junctions. By doing so, V2X systems offer a complementary layer of protection beyond traditional advanced driver assistance systems and extend protection to road users who are not in direct line of sight.
This ability to see beyond the immediate road ahead means that V2X can do things that a human driver couldn't. If other vehicles and networks are sharing information about the roads ahead, then the car can plan the smartest route based on current conditions. It can slow down to avoid slamming on the brakes when hitting congestion or better yet find a route to avoid the congestion entirely.
Equipped with sensors and V2X, self-driving vehicles appear to offer three clear benefits:
Safer roads: Better information and the removal of human error could reduce collisions, making the streets safer for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. V2X can give a car more accurate information about when to apply the brakes in an emergency or when a neighboring lane is clear enough for the car to move into it. In fact, cellular V2X systems such as Eye-Net can be incorporated into regular smartphones and warn road users of potentially dangerous situations on the road.
A smoother, faster ride: Self-driving cars will automatically space themselves and select a speed that supports the smooth flow of traffic. This removes the irregularities of traffic flow that lie behind congestion, allowing for quicker, smoother traveling.
Fuel efficiency: This smoother ride, together with the ability to accurately balance fuel consumption against speed, may make for more efficient vehicles that use less fuel, helping both the environment and costs to the driver.
Building a Better System
Though companies such as Foresight are already working on the systems that will make V2X a reality, these companies are dependent upon the quality of the supporting technology and available components. Fortunately, as the number of automated systems in cars increases, other companies have an incentive to support these advances.
Several companies have been developing new sets of microchips to incorporate in V2X systems. The likes of Autotalk, NXP and Qualcomm are producing the sophisticated components that V2X and its sensor systems need. This is likely to reduce costs for these systems, as the market for components becomes more competitive.
Improvements to city infrastructure could also help to make V2X systems more effective. There have been calls for city governments to consider self-driving cars in their urban planning. If public transport, traffic lights, car parks and other elements of the transport network were plugged into a large communication grid of V2X systems, cars could receive a better picture of what is happening across a whole city. This could lead to better traffic flows, less congestion and fewer accidents.
For urban planners to take these requests seriously, V2X has to prove its value in practice. When a sizable number of V2X-equipped cars hit the road, local authorities will likely pay more attention to the impact the systems could have and consider building infrastructure for them.
That's where companies such as Foresight come in.
Stronger Sensor Systems
Foresight specializes in sensor and guidance systems for autonomous vehicles. Its QuadSight system is a state-of-the-art multi-spectral vision system that lets a vehicle detect obstacles in all weather and lighting conditions. To complement these sensors, Foresight is also developing Eye-Net.
Deployed on smartphones and cloud-based servers, Eye-Net makes use of existing networks to share information that may prevent accidents. A device using Eye-Net keeps track of where a vehicle is in the environment and transmits this information to Eye-Net servers. These servers are also gathering details from other devices in the vicinity. The servers then share the information and details that have been gathered with the devices on the system, even when the actual obstacles aren't visible. If a potential collision is detected, Eye-Net warns users with both audio and visual signals, helping them to avoid an accident.
In March, Foresight carried out the first successful pilot of Eye-Net. Since then, work on the project has been spun off into a wholly owned subsidiary company with a focus on advancing this V2X technology.
Eye-Net currently acts as an independent system that can provide great safety for any road user. But the system is also helping lay the groundwork for more integrated systems. By providing real-time information and past analysis on traffic, as well as examples of V2X in action, it could give urban planners the information they need to start building more V2X-friendly environments. With systems such as Eye-Net on the road, the foundations will be laid for sophisticated cities attuned to the self-driving industry.
Working Towards a Self-Driving World
Ford Motor Company is one of the biggest companies pushing city planners to consider self-driving cars. Ford CEO Jim Hackett has called upon urban authorities to plan for these vehicles. His case is based upon the same points made by so many others, particularly the importance of reducing pollution and congestion in densely populated urban centers. The intervention of such a major player in the car market could get more people to pay attention.
Electric car company Tesla, Inc. is heavily committed to self-driving technology, as befits the forward vision of its CEO, Elon Musk. The company's fame has ensured that setbacks such as accidents in testing have drawn attention, but it's still taking some of the biggest steps forward in self-driving technology. Efforts to innovate new battery solutions for electric engines give Tesla's cars an advantage in powering technology such as sensors and V2X systems.
One company whose technology supports V2X systems is NXP Semiconductors N.V.. A world leader in secure connectivity solutions, one of NXP's major focuses is on securely connected vehicles. For vehicles to rely on communications systems such as V2X, users will have to be sure that the systems are safe from hackers and other malicious actors. A focus on security in this area is vital.
Technology company Qualcomm, Inc. is producing the automotive processors and modems that manufacturers need to build self-driving cars. Designed to take into account future advances in connectivity, these are already being used by some of the world's leading car manufacturers. These components are what V2X systems are built on and may soon become a standard part of how we drive.
Allowing vehicles to communicate with each other and with their environment opens the way for a safe, efficient self-driving future. As sensor systems combine with V2X, both cars and the cities they drive through are likely to change, creating a less-congested, less-polluted world.