Ok, 300 Million Self-Driving Cars — What Could Go Wrong?
Connected Vehicle Technology (Part 2)
HLSensory Overload: We’re Everywhere You’re Going To Be
Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of a 2 part series on Connected Vehicle Technology.” Part 1 can be found here: https://medium.com/homeland-security/coming-to-a-roadway-near-you-e74fb6c476f1.
Before getting into the specifics about how the system is supposed to work, a short primer on what happens in complex systems that have lots of parts that have to interact flawlessly. Networks of self-driving cars are a classic case of what is known as a tightly coupled complex system. These are systems with many independent parts that must work seamlessly together in order for the whole system to function. If one part of the system behaves in an unanticipated way, the entire system is subject to failure. These large systems quickly become too complex to be run by humans. As more and more controls and safety features are added to the system to take control away from fallible humans, potential cascading faults are also unwittingly added in. When the right combination of circumstances presents itself, the entire system can have a catastrophic collapse. This exact phenomenon has been seen in several nuclear power plant meltdowns, the Apollo 13 accident, widespread power outages, and the ValueJet crash in 1996. The certainty of a catastrophic failure is so great that these incidents are known in the industry as “Normal Accidents.”
So how does the system work?
A connected vehicle will perform a number of independent functions seamlessly and combine this functionality through multiple sensors and onboard processing units linked to the various automotive control systems that will provide drivers safety awareness.
In essence, cars must be able to understand their real-time environment with sensors, including where it is and where it needs to go using navigation tools, all while communicating with other vehicles, infrastructure, and personal devices. Sensory information is communicated in order to reduce crashes, enable safety, and provide continuous real time connectivity to system users.
Connected vehicles will scan in 360 degrees to inform the operator of hazards and situations they might not recognize. These alerts will allow operators to take corrective action in time to avoid collisions. A recent NHTSA analysis concluded that up to 79 percent of all crashes by unimpaired drivers could potentially be addressed by vehicle to vehicle, and vehicle to infrastructure technology combined. Traffic mobility can be improved since vehicles will be communicating with each other allowing transportation managers the ability to manage performance by adjusting traffic signaling devices or dispatching maintenance crews for repairs, or even dispatching emergency services resources more efficiently. With efficiency also comes a reduction on the environmental impact caused by traffic congestion. Options for re-routing a trip based on accumulated data from multiple vehicle systems sensing congestion or road blockage will increase fuel economy and minimize lost production time.
The basic core of connected vehicle technology rests in wireless connectivity between vehicles (V2V), infrastructure (V2I), and other mobile devices (V2X).
Increasing use of wireless data communications has fundamentally changed society with its constant demand for instant access to information and infotainment systems. This access will need to be provided to users while in transit as well since Internet integrated vehicles are already deployed. The Connected Car Industry Report 2013 prepared by Telefonica cites a Machina Research report that indicates connectivity will be the norm in the year 2020 as 90 percent of new cars will be equipped with the technology as opposed to 10 percent today. The connected vehicle environment will make use of several types of wireless connectivity to include cellular, Wi-Fi, and dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) to benefit society. These benefits are highlighted by a significant reduction in highway traffic crashes resulting in reduced fatalities and personal injuries. When real-time traffic information is known, mobility and efficiencies can be realized by all ground transportation sectors whether private or commercial.
Expectations from consumers have grown and the role of the motor vehicle in society has evolved from a simple physical system for safe, reliable transportation, to a mobile information platform capable of facilitating information flows in real time to support the modern connected lifestyle. A connected vehicle will take proactive measures to enhance safety and support driver awareness through applications like collision detection, lane changing, and cooperative management of traffic flow on the highways of the nation.
Has this technology been tested in the real world?
Yes, in multiple locations in the United States and abroad. The U.S. Department of Transportation is currently sponsoring a Connected Vehicle Safety Pilot Model Deployment research program that is multimodal and aims to enable a safe, connected environment between vehicles, infrastructure, and personal mobile devices using wireless communications systems. Connected vehicle test beds provide the vehicle to vehicle and vehicle to infrastructure communications system for testing. Testing is designed to determine how effective safety applications are at reducing crashes, and driver responses to those applications. Some features of the testing include driver awareness functions that track vehicle position and issue alerts to drivers on congestion, road blockage, weather related information, and emergency vehicle presence. This information can be relayed to similarly equipped vehicles and mobile devices when fully functional.
Through the Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office, an organization of affiliated test beds has evolved and is made up of 5.9GHz DSRC infrastructure device makers, operators of vehicle to infrastructure installations, and developers of applications that use V2I communications. Memorandums of agreement have been signed by 61 public, private, and academic organizations to exchange information, share deployment lessons learned, develop a common technical platform, and expand test bed options for users. There are currently five operational test beds tocated in Virginia, California, Florida, and two sites in Michigan.
So how soon before we can buy a connected vehicle?
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration in August 2014 began the process of initiating a rulemaking to require the installation of the technology in all new light vehicles. It will take many years for the majority of the fleet of vehicles on the road today to be connected. Aftermarket suppliers will no doubt be attempting to expedite filling the gap between connected and non-connected vehicles.
Connected technology does have promise and is being rapidly advanced as Secretary Foxx of the U.S. Department of Transportation announced in May 2015 that NHTSA will move on its proposed timetable for a proposed rule on vehicle to vehicle connectivity. If the proposed rulemaking requiring that new vehicles be equipped with connected vehicle technology is issued as expected in 2016, then consumers may be able to purchase those vehicles by 2019.
It is undisputed that a computer can drive any one car better than a human can. But because human error only accounts for one car at a time, the carnage is limited to the vehicles and people in the immediate vicinity of the failure. Not so when a computer is driving ALL the cars and trucks. The many current questions of vehicles or control systems getting hacked or failing are being dealt with by the best minds the planet has to offer. The unique quality of the “Normal Accident” is always the same — nobody saw that one coming.
More information on Conneccted Vehicle Technology can be found here: