Cloud-Based Communications For Safer Driving

Why not use cloud-based communications to have vehicles warn each other of impending dangers?

We are not talking of smoke signals as our ancestors may have done, but using the virtual cloud to help vehicles communicate with each other; a Scandinavian study is looking into it with Volvo at the helm.

Volvo Car Group (Volvo Cars), the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket) and the Norwegian Public Roads Administration (Statens Vegvesen) are joining forces for a pilot project in which road friction information from individual cars is shared within a cloud-based system.

Volvo explained the real-time data about slippery patches on the road are used to warn vehicles nearby, at the same time as it contributes to making winter road maintenance more efficient.

“The pilot is one of the first practical examples of the way communication between vehicles over the mobile network enables vehicles to ‘speak’ to each other and with the traffic environment. This can contribute to making traffic safer,” says Erik Israelsson, Project Leader Cooperative ITS (Intelligent Transport System) at Volvo Cars. “We have 50 test cars on the roads, and next winter the fleet will grow considerably. Our aim is to make the technology available for our customers within a few years.”

How does it work? When the Volvo test car detects an icy or slippery road patch, the information is transmitted to Volvo Cars’ database via the mobile phone network, said Volvo. An instant warning is transmitted to other vehicles that are approaching the slippery area, making it possible for the drivers to take immediate action to avoid a critical situation. This results in a slippery road warning on the instrument cluster to alert the driver. The application in the vehicle will be designed to adapt the driver warning to match the severity level based on the vehicle speed and the present road conditions.

Members of the study believe this could also be used to improve winter road maintenance.

The information about the icy patch can also be sent to the road administrator as a complement to existing measurement stations along the road. The data can help the road administrator and key partners to better plan and execute winter road maintenance and quickly address changed conditions.

“When the road administrator has access to information from a large number of cars, the data can be used to make winter road maintenance more efficient. The information could help to improve road safety further for all road users. This could also reduce the use of salt when not needed and minimize the environmental impact,” says Israelsson.

Volvo Cars added it recognizes that the maintained integrity of end-users is an important aspect of the system. The information shared with the road administrator will not include data of unique vehicles. The aggregated information is used solely to describe the present status of the road network.

Volvo Cars also explained it strategically invests in and initiates partnerships to create cloud-based solutions, and the slippery road warning is the first safety feature in the Volvo cloud. The development of sophisticated communication via the mobile network is part of the company’s aim to offer customers a fully connected experience.

“This is only the beginning. In the future we will have increased exchange of vital information between vehicles,” says Erik Israelsson. “There is considerable potential in this area, including safer traffic, a more comfortable drive and an improved traffic flow. The strategic focus on connectivity within our new Scalable Product Architecture paves the way for more cloud-based safety solutions. This will bring us closer to our safety vision that nobody should die or suffer serious injuries in a new Volvo car by the year 2020.”