Coming to a Roadway Near You:
Connected Vehicle Technology (Part 1)
HLSensory Overload: We’re Everywhere You’re Going To Be
Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 of a 2-part series on Connected Vehicle Technology. Part 2 can be found here: https://medium.com/@hlsensoryoverload/ok-300-million-self-driving-cars-what-could-go-wrong-1c68d604db49
Resistance is Futile
Imagine if your car could talk. What would it say? Who would it speak to and why? Can other cars talk back to you? Can the traffic lights and signs speak? Can you tell it to shut up? Can it keep a secret (more on that in a later post). The answer to some of these questions is Yes!
Ready or not, Nanny State is about to transform the open road into one more over-regulated fish bowl where your every move is monitored, controlled, and reported. As corporate behemoths Google and Apple roll out “self driving” cars you can be assured that they are spreading money in Congress thicker than the icing on Honey Boo Boo’s birthday cake. Rest assured it is all in the name of safety and well being, whether you prefer to be at the controls or not. The logic goes like this: Self-driving cars are safer, but in order to get the most out of that safety, the other cars on the road need to be able to communicate (and not just with each other). So prepare yourself to either be forced into a Google-controlled Prius, which you can get in exchange for $85,000 and your man-card, or else you will have to install a transponder in your “dumb” car so the “smart” cars can see you! All this so that the teenie-boppers can take their selfies and the soccer moms can helicopter their kids on the way to Starbucks all the while not worrying about about that minor thing — oh yeah, the road and you.
Connected Vehicle Technology is being exhaustively studied by the U.S. Department of Transportation, major universities, and private corporations. The goal of this emerging technology is to allow vehicles to gather information relative to their constantly changing environment, both internal and external to the vehicle, and then share that information wirelessly to other vehicles (V2V), infrastructure (V2I), and personal communicative devices like cell phones and tablets (V2X).
So what exactly does that do for the driver?
There are a number of tangible benefits to be derived from this technology. Through research and development, new technologies and innovations promise more efficient and sustainable travel. Safety adherents tout vast reductions in the number and frequency of motor vehicle crashes. According to the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies, “almost all transportation fatalities — approximately 94 percent occur on highways and mostly involve passenger vehicle crashes”. Fatalities and personal injury accidents are expected to decrease significantly as connected vehicle systems are fully integrated into society.
Your car will be able to communicate its presence, speed, direction to other vehicles and infrastructure in close proximity. Having this knowledge aids driver awareness and road safety. The technology is useful for collision detection, as drivers would be alerted by their own car to activities not immediately observable by the individual. For example, when the car in front of you suddenly brakes your car receives the notice instantaneously and your vehicle — if equipped with emergency brake assistance — preloads your braking system and alerts you. As multiple vehicles approach an intersection, each car is aware of the presence of the other even if line-of-sight conditions are not present. Lane change warnings and cooperative merging are also safety applications that are made available with connected vehicle technology.
Another expected safety benefit is the proposed reduction in traffic congestion in metropolitan areas and the nation’s highways. Mobility is expected to improve as real-time traffic data can be disseminated to all drivers, commercial operators, and transportation officials to help alleviate congestion. The 2012 Urban Mobility Report by Schrank and Lomax indicates the impact of traffic congestion in the United States leads to unproductive time of about thirty-eight hours for the average commuter yearly and the cost of congestion is 120 billion dollars or nearly $820 dollars per commuter in the United States. The reduction will be achieved through platooning of vehicles. Vehicles will communicate with each other thus increasing traffic flow, and allowing for closer gaps between vehicles.
The gains achieved through greater mobility are also anticipated to have positive effects on the environment. Combustion engines produce emissions that include pollutants that are harmful to the atmosphere. Quality of life is affected by increases in pollutant levels caused by traffic congestion. Connected vehicle technology is expected to produce reductions in fuel consumption, idling motors, and vehicle miles travelled — all of which have an adverse impact on the environment.
As to whether you can tell your car to shut up and take it “dark”, don’t depend on being able to do that any more than you can disable your airbag. You won’t be able to monitor what data transmissions your car is making any more than you can control who is receiving them. With this new technology the police will not even need to leave the station — or the donut shop (we kid, we kid) — to check up on you. It is more like you’ll e unknowingly tweeting your information to them.
If that all sounds pretty harmless to you, then consider the cost of converting to this driverless utopia. Right now there are over 250 million cars in the U.S., not counting the handful that are “self-driving”. If all those vehicles need to be replaced by smart cars along with all the attendant infrastructure, $820 dollars a year sounds like a hell of a bargain for being occasionally stuck in traffic. Even now there are cheaper alternatives to traffic congestion and pollution concerns — it’s called “The Bus”.
(Check back here later this week for part 2 of this feature story!)
For more information on Connected Vehicle Technology: http://www.its.dot.gov/landing/cv.htm