Car-to-Car communication technology helps keep roads safe [2:45]
Road safety concerns everyone. Despite the introduction of seat belts, air bags and ABS, there are still too many fatalities on the roads - 40,000 in Europe alone in the year 2000 with 1.7 million injuries.
The challenge for the automotive industry was to see if it was possible to harness the power of electronic technology to the interests of road safety.
NEC has joined forces with a consortium of European motor manufacturers to develop a technology which will allow vehicles to communicate automatically between themselves, so giving advance warning of dangers ahead.
NEC's contribution to the project has been to design a wholly original platform.
This is absolutely novel technology. Nobody, as far as we know, is using this technology in the world.
Still in the research phase, Car2Car is an investment in the future. Car2Car technology involves cars sending radio signals from built-in sensors to the cars behind, each car sharing information with the others like a moving Local Area Network. The revolutionary difference in the technology is that they communicate without an address, using geographic position instead from a linked GPS.
We think we're now in the position that we can say this is a reliable technology that we can use for car-to-car communication.
With Car2Car communication, information concerning an accident, weather conditions or sudden braking is passed back down the line with warning signals appearing on a dashboard screen. The technology is linked to a GPS so that a driver only picks up messages relevant to his route. NEC's software knowledge is indispensable to the car makers.
Ralf Guide Herrtwich, Daimler Chrysler AG;
Partners, such as NEC, will play an increasing role in contributing to our automotive systems. So they will be supplying many of the solutions that we will have in our future vehicles.
Research by NEC and its automotive partners is on-going but the technology has already been proved to work. Future applications may allow drivers to see a bigger picture of their environment, discover where the next service station is, the next hold up, even have a diagnostic check run on their vehicle remotely. But the single greatest benefit is beyond dispute – the saving of lives.
Imagine you're driving along a motorway. It's dark, you're tired, and you're going too fast - until you hear an alert indicating that the traffic 1km ahead has suddenly slowed down to a stop. You slow down gently and look forward to taking a nap while stuck in the traffic jam.
It sounds like a scene from science fiction, and it's not something that car manufacturers offer yet. But in a few years from now, they will, thanks to NEC. A team of software engineers at NEC's laboratories in Heidelberg, Germany, have developed a prototype system that turns each car into a communication hub able to transmit safety information to nearby vehicles based on sensor data like speed, sudden braking, road surface temperature, or airbag deployment. It's almost as good as seeing round corners.
DaimlerChrysler is testing the Car to Car system with a small fleet of Smart Cars, and each can transmit and receive data over a range of 500 metres. NEC's breakthrough technology depended on creating a protocol that connects network hubs (i.e. cars) by using geographical location information available via the car's sat-nav systems. What's more, the system collects and relays data very rapidly since vehicles moving in opposite directions may be within range for only a few seconds.
That data also has to be relevant; there's no point telling on-coming motorway traffic that you've just stepped on the brakes, but it certainly matters to the car 500m behind you. Dr. Ralph Guido Herrtwich, Director of Vehicle IT & Services Research for DaimlerChrysler AG, points out that the need for sophisticated future vehicle IT systems will give NEC a vital role in the future of automobile manufacturing - not just for safety, but for bringing information to travellers: What could be better than knowing what restaurants in the next village have on today's menu?
Ultimately, NEC's car-to-car technology will turn vehicles into mobile Wi-Fi points - each car forming a link in a fast moving daisy chain of wireless communication. The big challenge is for manufacturers to agree on a communications standard, and that is why NEC is a key player in the European Car2Car Communication Consortium.