For this column I am going to address vehicle-to-infrastructure or “V2I” technology. V2I and V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) technologies are an important part of the future of our society. As vehicles become more autonomous, a lot will change, including how we communicate with our vehicles, how our vehicles communicate with each other, and how our vehicles communicate with their surroundings.
The transportation infrastructure is going to need to change too in order to support autonomous vehicles. All of this is worth thinking and talking about now, because it’s going to take many years of planning, building, testing, and continued technology innovation to reach the end goal. The end goal, of course, is to increase roadway safety by making transportation systems incredibly smart.
V2I can be described as a communication model that allows vehicles to share information with the infrastructure around them.
It essentially represents the next generation of ITS (intelligent transportation systems), which we’ve been talking about on my podcast and in Connected World magazine for many years now.
V2I tech accomplishes a couple of crucial things. It captures important data from connected vehicles. When a backend management system takes all of this individual vehicle-related data together, it can set variable speed limits or adjust traffic signal phases based on what’s happening on the road.
V2I also facilitates communication from the infrastructure to individual vehicles. This could include sending realtime advisories to drivers about road conditions, traffic jams and accidents, and construction activity along their current or intended routes.
It could even provide valuable information about where to find available parking in an area, so drivers don’t have to waste time and fuel circling around looking for a parking spot.
V2V and V2I typically leverage DSRC (dedicated short-range communications) technology to transfer data back and forth between individual vehicles and infrastructure components.
These components include traffic cameras, traffic lights, lane markers, streetlights, road signage, parking meters, and so on.
For the purposes of this discussion, it’s essential to take a step back and ask: why V2I? The U.D. DOT (Dept. of Transportation) defines V2I as the wireless exchange of critical safety and operational data between vehicles and highway infrastructure.
While the DOT says V2I is primarily intended to avoid motor vehicle crashes, it also acknowledges the tech enables a wide range of other safety, mobility, and environmental benefits.
Preliminary studies suggest at least 12% of potential crash scenarios could be addressed by V2I safety applications.
In reality, that percentage will be much higher, especially when combined with V2V technologies. When you take into consideration all the scenarios already addressed in this blog, V2I has the potential to transform our roadways.
For instance, there’s the idea that V2I could ease the flow of traffic by adjusting light signals according to the number of cars on the road and which direction they’re traveling.
Also, there’s the potential ability to redirect drivers who would otherwise be heading into an area with an accident or some road construction.
Research that’s already been done by the DOT has demonstrated V2I connected vehicle applications’ significant potential. In one report, the DOT says V2I can reduce delays up to 27% by prioritizing signal timing, and it can reduce CO2 emissions and fuel consumption by up to 11%.
Plus, the technology could potentially prevent thousands of crashes per year. The underlying benefit is saving lives. So now let’s briefly cover what’s being done to bring all of this to fruition.
Let’s look at examples in both the public sector and the private sector. First, the elephant in the room is the DOT’s own V2I guidance document released earlier this year. The document is too big to address everything, but it’s important to see why it is a big step toward enabling a connected vehicle environment. What guidance documents like this do offer is that they start a national conversation about key topics that will ultimately push the space forward.
For instance, with V2I communication, we’re talking about the marriage of hardware, software, firmware, and wireless communication to enable the dynamic transfer of data between vehicles and elements of the roadway infrastructure. V2I therefore unearths questions about interoperability, as well as privacy and security.
Also, people’s lives are at stake—drivers, passengers, and pedestrians—so proper testing and safety considerations must be built into the discussion from the beginning.
V2I and V2V also raise some ethical questions. Who or what is responsible in the event of a system failure that results in a car crash?
On the logistical side of things, V2I also requires investment. Who is going to pay to upgrade the various components necessary in creating a fully functional V2I system?
Cameras, traffic lights, and traffic signs … all of them need to be equipped with DSRC or some other communications technology to be able to transmit data.
There also needs to be investment in the private sector, and, specifically, from automakers.
Automakers must recognize the value of V2I technology and be willing to sink money into making cars and trucks with built-in communications capabilities that can participate in V2I.
As my example, I’ll pick on Audi, which launched V2I technology in the U.S. in late 2016 starting with select models in Las Vegas. Audi’s immediate focus has been connecting traffic light information to vehicles via an Audi connect prime feature. The feature allows equipped models to communicate with the infrastructure in select cities to receive realtime signal information, such as “Time-to-Green.”
“Time-to-Green” displays the time remaining until the signal changes to green in the driver instrument cluster and heads-up display, if the car has one. It’s just a start, but it will be fun to see where we go from here.
Our transportation infrastructure and our vehicles are clearly at a crossroads. Going forward, it won’t be a surprise to see more V2V, more V2I, and more of all the challenges and opportunities that go along with these exciting technology.
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