A major contribution to road safety
Even if the traffic still jams up, semi-autonomous systems can establish a common speed impossible to attain among dozens and dozens of human drivers, to keep the traffic moving. Slow progress is better than no progress, and better able to keep drivers’ tempers under control than start-stop movement, even if the bursts of speed are high. Volvo and car automation specialist Ricardo, working under the auspices of the European Union’s Project Sartre (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) have shown this kind of thing works.
Cars won’t just be communicating with each other but also with the infrastructure. So in cities, they will be talking to the traffic management systems with the aim of making everyone’s journey as smooth and as quick as possible, and with the overall aim of reducing emissions and fuel consumption.
Google's driverless car: a long way from showrooms
You can expect connected cars to start appearing in showrooms some time in 2015. They won't be self-driving. Far from it, in fact, as there’s a whole host of legal and practical issues that must be addressed before that happens. Instead, they’ll use their car-to-car connectivity to help make motoring more safe.
According to Ford’s van der Jagt: “We will start with warnings about roadworks, traffic jams and emergency vehicles. This is easy to implement. Vehicles can take that information, inform the driver and pass it on to any other vehicle within a 300 metre radius.”
Further down the road, he reckons, “you will know about all the cars around you, such as those that have stopped, or those that are invisible because of obstructions, and we can take action on all those scenarios”.
This begs the question of how far the driver will be involved in future. Are we destined to become passive passengers in our own cars?
“We could get to a point where the completely automated car could arrive,” muses van der Jagt, “but full autonomy is very, very far out. So you can’t fall asleep in the back seat - there’s no legislative framework for that.”
Semi-automated cars will be here sooner than you think. There’s already a range of cars available, from makers as diverse as Audi, Toyota, Ford and Kia, that can park themselves. Add car-to-car connectivity, and controlled situations such as slow motorway flow lend themselves to automation.
Jam session: avoiding gridlock, the ITS way: free-moving cars warn vehicles approaching the slow-down
Source: Car-2-Car Consortium
“Most people would like to have a Mondeo that drives itself,” says van der Jagt. “In controlled conditions in a motorway jam, the car could take over.” You can expect that to arrive within ten years, he predicts.
Van der Jagt wouldn’t be drawn on which Ford will be first to sport interconnectedness, saying only that the new features will arrive in the course of the normal rhythm of car updates; but he didn't argue when I suggested it might indeed be a Mondeo.
Next page: Selecting the right network
I'm feeling very very depressed.
If you want to drive coupled to the car in front, take the bloody train. I for one don't want my drive controlled my Mr 40mph in the middle lane. I don't want to read my emails or download entertainment from teh intarwebs or be thrown adverts or routed onto a different road.
The very most I want to know is 'this road is subject to delays because xxx'. That's it.
The scenarios illustrated in the article are fanciful at best: the amount of processing power required to uniquely and unambiguously identify every other vehicle in sight, in all conditions of temperature, visibility, and weather; to identify road conditions and braking distances and 'that bloke never had a driving lesson in his life' and that ball that just rolled onto the road is likely to have a kid following it and ooh, an ice cream van... nah. We've got a computer that can do that, and it's made with great delight and unskilled labour.
We don't need mechanisms to stop us having to think; we need educating *to* think.
Re: Like Marvin
Perhaps there can be a system to tell Mr 40mph to get the %$^£ out of the middle lane because he's not overtaking anyone at that speed and is causing tailbacks halfway across the country....
This is all going to end in tears...
Just wait until the mission creep sets in and everyone and their dogs can gain access to your personal motoring data under crime, terrorism or kiddie protection legislation. Reminding you that your MOT / tax is due is fine, as is letting you know there's something wrong with your engine or you've got a nail in your tyre is fine. AutoPhorm, location tracking, letting SonyBMG know you've been playing Susan Boyle content leeched of l33torrentz and driver profiling is not.
"check the status"?
"You’ll be able to check the status of your car long before you slip in behind the wheel."
What's a car's "status"? I can't think of anything that I want to ask my car before I get in. No doubt the car will just reply: "It's complicated".
Re: Like Marvin
"That said, motorways have three lanes"
Not all of them.
I've also noticed that Mr Middle Lane Driver doesn't often tend to notice much of what's happening behind them, including but not limited to large queues, beeping horns, flashing lights and whatnot.