Vehicle-to-Infrastructure Technology, On The Road In Germany

October 24, 2012

Last week, Dykema released results from its 2012 Automotive Institute Survey, which polled 100 auto executives about their thoughts on the industry's future. Among the most interesting findings was the fact that respondents seemed more interested in vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) technology -- that is, technology that allows cars to communicate with infrastructure elements, like stop lights -- rather than the vehicle-to-vehicle systems (V2V) that often litter the headlines.

Wired has posted a new clip of such a V2I system at work in Germany. There, technicians equipped a BMW with a transceiver that communicates with infrastructure elements and emergency vehicles.

As the author points out, this V2I test program is different from many of the V2V systems we've seen. The latter are generally intended to improve driver safety. In fact, the Department of Transportation believes that V2V systems could bring America's already-low auto fatality rate much lower.

V2I systems have safety implications, too -- for example, by alerting drivers to upcoming red lights. However, the German V2I test is currently focused on easing traffic flow and helping drivers save gas.

In the video clip below, the BMW's V2I system alerts the driver of an upcoming red light. On a screen, the motorist sees a what looks like a pie chart, showing that in order to hit the green light, he'll need to drive below 40 km per hour (in the chart's green zone). Any faster, and he'll arrive too quickly and be stuck at the red light.

Just to make sure the driver gets the point, the system lifts the accelerator, pushing against the driver's foot and slowing the vehicle. The driver has the option of pushing back and accelerating, of course, but in this case, he doesn't.

Oddly enough, this video points up one of the shortcomings of V2I systems -- namely, that without parallel V2V systems in place, V2I is much less useful.

For example, it wouldn't do a driver much good to know that a red light were about to change to green if there were half a block's worth of cars and buses standing between him and the intersection. He could go as slow as he liked, and he'd still get stuck in traffic.

In fact, common sense would suggest that V2V systems ought to take priority over V2I. While the former wouldn't necessarily know when red lights were scheduled to turn, that information could be inferred from the manner in which other vehicles are moving. (For a low-tech example of this in practice, check out Waze.)

And just like V2I, V2V can help improve traffic flow and boost fuel efficiency, too. As proof, look no further than Volvo's recent SARTRE tests.

Either way, V2I and V2V technology are coming. Within the next decade or so, the two systems will radically change the way that drivers interact with their own vehicles and with others on the road.

Many of us are excited about these developments, but there are a few holdouts who shrug and say "Meh". Which camp are you in? Let us know in the comments below.

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