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Why V2V technology is crucial for connected cars

Posted: 27 Jul 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:self-driving car  user experience  connected car  V2V  lidar 

An incident last month involving self-driving cars from both Google and Delphi caught the attention of those in the automotive and electronics industry when the two vehicles almost collided on the streets of Palo Alto.

The good news is that the two autonomous cars dodged the bullet. But what about a "user experience" in which the car took sudden evasive action by aborting a lane change?

Adrian Koh, director of business development, business unit Automotive at NXP Semiconductors posed this question during the "Why Connect Cars?" discussion at the Embedded Systems Conference Silicon Valley last week.

In the incident, a Delphi autonomous car played chicken with a Google Car, "a typical lane change manoeuvre," according to a Delphi spokesperson. The spokesperson told EE Times that this was "an actual interaction that we encounter all the time in real-world driving situations."

Connected car

"Why Connect Cars?" Panel at ESC Silicon Valley

Google similarly explained, "If you spend enough time on the road, accidents will happen whether you're in a car or a self-driving car."

Chris Urmson, director of Google's self-driving car programme, wrote in his latest blog:

  • It's particularly telling that we're getting hit more often now that the majority of our driving is on surface streets rather than freeways; this is exactly where you'd expect a lot of minor, usually unreported collisions to happen. Other drivers have hit us 14 times since the start of our project in 2009 (including 11 rear-enders), and not once has the self-driving car been the cause of the collision. Instead, the clear theme is human error and inattention. We'll take all this as a signal that we're starting to compare favourably with human drivers.

No human errors involved

What makes this incident particularly compelling is that it happened between two autonomous cars with no human error possible.

One could argue that no "real" accident happened here, since both passengers and cars were unharmed.

But what's under-reported is that Delphi does have vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) wireless communication capability. Google's driverless cars don't.

While advocating self-driving cars loaded with lidar, radars and a variety of sensors, Google hasn't talked about the value of V2V communications. Nor has it discussed whether Google cars need it.

However, enough minor incidents—getting hit 14 times—could presumably prove to Google that even self-driving cars can benefit from having dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) technology. At least, that's what proponents of V2X (including both V2V and Vehicle-to-Infrastructure) are hoping.

V2V technology uses the DSRC standard, otherwise known as IEEE 802.11p, set forth by bodies like the FCC and ISO. In the United States, the FCC has allocated 75MHz of bandwidth at 5.9GHz for DSRC communications.

The Cadillac CTS V2V from Delphi, for example, comes with DSRC. It's not clear, however, whether Delphi's Audi Q5 which got into the near-collision with that Google car was equipped with V2X. Delphi did not respond to that particular question from EE Times.

Nonetheless, Delphi clearly sees the value of V2X.

Delphi's spokesperson told us, "V2V and V2X will extend the range of active safety technologies on the car by helping vehicles see beyond the perception systems on the car for situations like an accident blocking traffic around a bend in the road."

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