Volkswagen has announced plans to begin fitting its models with technology to help them to talk to other vehicles starting in 2019.
Using public wireless local area network (pWLAN) technology, VW vehicles will be able to alert other road users (car to car) to traffic hazards virtually instantaneously, as well as sending the alerts to the local infrastructure (car to X), all within a half km radius.
The technology is widely recognized as an important step toward fully autonomous driving, and the expected improvement in road safety and reduction in crashes and, therefore, injuries, and was standardized by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
The IEEE 802.11p (pWLAN) standard also allows for the exchange of sensor data, meaning it might also be possible to send information about road surface, in order to expedite the repair of things such as potholes without having motorists report on pothole locations.
“We want to increase road safety with the aid of networked vehicles, and the most efficient way of achieving this is through the rapid roll-out of a common technology”, explains Johannes Neft, Head of Vehicle Body Development for the Volkswagen brand. “What matters most is that the technology is used consistently, and by as many manufacturers and partners as possible.”
Naturally, the effectiveness of the technology increases exponentially with the number of users contributing information. And because the data is exchanged locally over a dedicated band, there is no need for storing data and no reliance on mobile networks.
More benefits will come when service vehicles also tap into the pWLAN technology as that will allow vehicles to receive information about ambulances or police cars approaching and from which direction, often long before sirens can be heard or flashing lights seen. Infrastructure operators in Austria, Germany and the Netherlands have already announced the intention of equipping lane-restriction vehicles with the technology so road users are aware of lane blockages or temporary road closures well in advance.
The final benefit will come when infrastructure such as traffic lights get integrated into the network, which will help speed up traffic and alert road users to temporary outages.