What if every motorist could see what the drivers ahead can see? In Munich, Germany, Ericsson and German automakers recently joined with Vodafone and local universities in a major research study that showed automobile crashes can be to a large part prevented, and traffic flow can be improved, if vehicles can communicate with one another over 3G/HSPA networks.
Using Vodafone’s mobile HSPA network and German vehicle manufacturer MAN Nutzfahrzeuge’s test grounds, the Cooperative Cars (CoCar) project simulated high-risk traffic situations to test applications that transmit time-critical information on traffic conditions between specially-equipped Daimler, MAN and Volkswagen vehicles. Guido Gehlen, project manager in the CoCar project from the Eurolab R&D Center in Aachen, says that the results of the two-and-a-half year study show that cellular technologies such as mobile broadband can complement automobile communications systems with economically viable safety services.“Mobile communications can defuse dangerous situations by helping motorists coordinate and adapt to surrounding traffic,” Gehlen says. For example, when a traffic jam lies just around the bend, the system automatically reports to the forthcoming vehicles – within less than half a second – that drivers ahead are drastically decelerating.”Anders Fagerholt, Program Manager Telematics at BU Networks, says such solutions can initially be deployed on standard mobile phones or in existing navigation systems, but will reach full functionality once integrated into cars. “The initial market introduction studies, led by Vodafone, found that investment in such products can be paid back in as little as four years,” he says.
The CoCar project was initiated by Adaptive and Cooperative Technologies for Intelligent Traffic (Aktiv), a German government research initiative that includes Ericsson and 28 other partners from the automotive industry, as well as transportation authorities, and electronics and ICT companies. The study concluded that if deployed in Germany alone, automobile coordination solutions could save EUR 500 million per year in costs to society such as those resulting from medical care and property damage. Costs to consumers could be kept low using special tele-data tariff rates that could be bundled in a one-time service charge.Gehlen says the solution tested in the CoCar project also works in EDGE and LTE networks, and could be easily combined with the planned introduction of new mobile communications-based services such as eCall, a regulatory initiative from the European Commission intended to bring rapid and accurate assistance to motorists involved in a collision anywhere in the European Union from 2011 on. These CoCar findings will also be presented and demonstrated during the upcoming ITS World Congress 2009 to be held in Stockholm, Sweden, September 21-25.A follow-up study is planned to explore further ways society can benefit from the use of mobile communications and IT in automobiles.
“This project opens up all kinds of possibilities for new connected-car applications, especially, if you consider nationwide coverage of LTE,” Gehlen says.