MADISON, Wis. — Lately, futurists are encouraging consumers to dream about a not-so-distant (or very long-distant, depending on who you talk to) future when they can drink coffee and read newspapers in their own “autonomous” cars while driving to work.
That’s the fun part of a complicated scenario. Often left out of the self-driving car debate are the real reasons behind developing the autonomous car -- in a social context.
Setting aside the Google car demos that tickle consumers’ fancy today, there are three reasons why the society needs autonomous cars: fewer traffic accidents, less traffic congestion, and better fuel economy.
John Maddox, who served as associate administrator for Vehicle Safety Research at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) until August, 2012, gave a speech last year entitled “Improving Driving Safety Through Automation.” He said, “Human error is the critical reason for 93 percent of crashes.” Insisting that automation should be focused first on safety, he said during the speech, there “won’t be a ‘driverless’ [car], until it’s ‘crashless.’”
Source: John Maddox's speech, “Improving Driving Safety Through Automation”
In an interview with EE Times, Egil Juliussen, IHS Automotive's principal analyst responsible for infotainment and ADAS, predicted that Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communication “can address 75 percent plus of all accidents,” while Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) “can address most remaining accidents categories.”
It’s important to note, however, that the Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) available in today’s luxury cars already offer many safety features by sensing the vehicle’s position relative to other objects and lane markers. Juliussen explained that more specifically, ADAS provides vehicle-based sensors, networks, and autonomy, while proactively preparing a vehicle and a driver for “upcoming events within 250 meters.”
So, if today’s constantly improving ADAS is accomplishing so much already, why do we need V2X?
Juliussen does acknowledge overlapping safety features in ADAS and V2X. He said that V2X can “determine the vehicle’s position relative to other vehicles, intersections, and infrastructure.” More specifically, V2X can “coordinate movement and timing, particularly through dangerous intersections,” he said.
Drue Freeman, senior vice president, global automotive sales and marketing at NXP, agreed. “V2X can give a driver more visibility when cars are turning at a corner. It also offers the driver more information about what’s happening a kilometer ahead.” It is “the line of sight stuff” that ADAS with standalone sensors and radar can handle well, but things that are not visible and happening too far ahead can be only picked up and warned by V2X, he told EE Times.
IHS’ Juliussen believes in the long-term future in which “ADAS + V2X can significantly expand awareness and information through redundant and complimentary sensing, better informed preparation for vehicle and driver, effective autonomous control, and coordination.” But the key is both ADAS and V2X “can still function independently,” he added.
ADAS and V2X application overlap
Focusing on automotive safety issues, Juliussen believes that V2V, using the Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC) spectrum, should offer the most inexpensive ‘safety’ solution -- in the medium term.