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Connected Vehicle Technology – but not just to stream music or video!!!!

Posted on December 29th, 2016 by in Chemical Manufacturing Excellence

Self driving cars

(Image: courtesy General Motors Corp.)

Autonomous cars are all the rage these days. Each person seems to have his or her own perception of the self-driving cars. Long-distance commuters visualize entering a car and ordering it to drive to the office. They can sit back and snooze or sip on mocha latte while they get some work done.  The car bears the burdens of traffic all on its own. Dream on … some day mankind will get there!

Autonomous cars are not quite there yet, Giving up control is not one of the stronger traits of a human being. That instinct is certain to move as soon as an autonomous vehicle’s maneuvers do not meet the owner’s approval. Respondents to surveys about car autonomy, in the US, UK and Australia, expressed strong skepticism about giving up control and potential safety compromises brought on by auto autonomy.  Respondents in China and India were somewhat more positive about driverless cars.  The Japanese were more or less neutral on all survey questions.  Another issue is the reaction of the insurance industry that will have a major impact on the economics of autonomous car ownership.

It turns out there are degrees of autonomy for a vehicle. The United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines vehicle automation as having five levels (Source:

No-Automation (Level 0): The driver is in complete and sole control of the primary vehicle controls – brake, steering, throttle, and motive power – at all times.

Function-specific Automation (Level 1): Automation at this level involves one or more specific control functions. Examples include electronic stability control or pre-charged brakes, where the vehicle automatically assists with braking to enable the driver to regain control of the vehicle or stop faster than possible by acting alone.

Combined Function Automation (Level 2): This level involves automation of at least two primary control functions designed to work in unison to relieve the driver of control of those functions. An example of combined functions enabling a Level 2 system is adaptive cruise control in combination with lane centering.

Limited Self-Driving Automation (Level 3): Vehicles at this level of automation enable the driver to cede full control of all safety-critical functions under certain traffic or environmental conditions and in those conditions to rely heavily on the vehicle to monitor for changes in those conditions requiring transition back to driver control. The driver is expected to be available for occasional control, but with sufficiently comfortable transition time. The Google car is an example of limited self-driving automation.

Full Self-Driving Automation (Level 4): The vehicle is designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip. Such a design anticipates that the driver will provide destination or navigation input, but is not expected to be available for control at any time during the trip. This includes both occupied and unoccupied vehicles.

Another technology, a required prerequisite of vehicle autonomy, is called Connected Vehicle Technology (CVT). The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT’s) CVT program is working with state and local transportation agencies, vehicle and device makers, and the public to test and evaluate technology that will enable cars, buses, trucks, trains, roads and other infrastructure, and our smartphones and other devices to “talk” to one another. Cars on the highway, for example, would use short-range radio signals to communicate with each other so every vehicle on the road would be aware of where other nearby vehicles are. Drivers would receive notifications and alerts of dangerous situations, such as someone about to run a red light as they’re nearing an intersection or an oncoming car, out of sight beyond a curve, swerving into their lane to avoid an object on the road (Source:

The significant benefits of CVT include (Source: Center for Advance Automotive Technology,

Crash Elimination: Crash-free driving and improved vehicle safety could change the concept of vehicle, as we know it.

Reduced Need for New Infrastructure: Self-driving can reduce the need for building new infrastructure and reduce maintenance costs.

Travel Time Dependability: Convergence can substantially reduce uncertainty in travel times via real-time, predictive assessment of travel times on all routes

Productivity Improvements: Convergence will allow travelers to make use of travel time productively

Improved Energy Efficiency: Reduced energy consumption in at least three ways: more efficient driving; lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles; and efficient infrastructure

The 5 million annual crashes cost over 30,000 lives and many more serious injuries, according to the US NHTSA. Connected vehicles could dramatically reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries caused by accidents on our roads and highways. While the number of people surviving crashes has increased significantly thanks to airbags, anti-lock brakes, and other technology, the USDOT is shifting its focus from helping people survive crashes to preventing crashes from happening in the first place.

Connected vehicles have significant advantages over new technologies now appearing in high-end vehicles, such as radar, lidar*, cameras, and other sensors. For one thing, connected vehicle technologies and applications have a greater range than on-board vehicle equipment, which will allow you to receive alerts of hazardous situations much earlier, providing more time to react and prevent an accident. Also, connected vehicle technology doesn’t depend on “line of sight” communications to be effective, unlike radar. So if a car ahead of you is braking hard on the other side of a hill due to an obstruction, you would receive notification even though you can’t see and aren’t aware of the dangerous situation developing. Connected vehicle technology is also less expensive to install than radar and camera equipment in vehicles. This will enable it to become standard equipment in the future on practically all vehicles, not just luxury cars. In the meantime keep your eyes on the road!

*Lidar stands for Light Detection and Ranging. It is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges (variable distances) to the Earth (Source: National Ocean Service,


All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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