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Communications of the connected car

Faisal Rafi, Managing Director, Xchanging Singapore | Feb. 27, 2015
Faisal Rafi of Xchanging Singapore shares insights on the many facets of a communications ecosystem, as well as the future possibilities that may arise with the development of driverless, connected cars.

This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.

The driverless car, for a long time anticipated as an invention belonging to the future, seems to have arrived. In the UK, trials in four cities have just been announced.

For the driverless vehicle to be truly 'connected', and to deliver benefits of safety, convenience and comfort, it must be one part of a whole communications infrastructure. Not just in the car but all around it, as the car needs to interact with its environment and other vehicles on the road.

People question the safety of a car driving itself — which is understandable; it is a paradigm shift in our understanding of transportation. Without being consciously aware of it, drivers assess complex information all the time to make split-second decisions. We trust ourselves with this task, but it would take a significant shift in mindset to trust technology to do the same. Ironic, considering that accidents happen time and again due to human error.   

The UK Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology (POST) suggests that the majority of road accidents are caused by human error, with only five per cent due solely to technical failure. For connected cars to exhibit better 'observation' skills than us, they must be in constant communication with other users and controllers of the road environment — including other vehicles and infrastructure such as traffic lights.

The Communications Ecosystem

A communications ecosystem equips the connected car with the ability to deal with factors that impact driving conditions, such as the weather and actions of other drivers. 

Weather and traffic alerts can directly communicate to vehicles the need to prepare for changes in driving conditions ahead, such as heavy rain or traffic congestion. The cars themselves — no longer isolated but now interactive vehicles — can share information with fellow road users that ensures the smooth and safe continuing flow of traffic.

Take for example the situation when car A plans to overtake car B. It can communicate this information in advance and share its approach speed so that car B can prepare for it. For instance, car B can 'decide' to slow down, adjust its road position or take other actions to ensure the safe completion of the manoeuvre. For this to work, data needs to flow seamlessly so that all communication, reactions and actions are perfectly coordinated.

There are many players involved in the creation of this communications ecosystem. Manufacturers develop the car's communication system, whilst governments manage the road infrastructure. For the elements to interact successfully and function as a system, standards are imperative.


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