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Autonomous Driving vs. Connected Vehicles

By Posted on June 25, 2015
Blog

SwadSwad Komanduri
Manager, Market Analysis (VFA)
NextEnergy

With the U.S. Department of Transportation’s announced support for autonomous driving technology and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx’s dedication to “be a part of the solution” to adopt technology that can improve roadway safety, the future of self-driving cars looks bright. While Google’s announced timeline of four years for market deployment is optimistic, there are other solutions that can be incorporated to help accelerate the adoption of technologies that improve vehicle safety.

Broadly speaking, there are two sets of technologies in development for the improvement of vehicular safety: connected vehicles and autonomous driving. Connected vehicle technology (V2X) refers to the set of technologies that revolve around equipping vehicles and infrastructure with radio connectivity and utilizing the data transmitted to anticipate and prevent accidents. Autonomous driving technology, on the other hand, refers to equipping vehicles with sensors and cameras to enable perception of their immediate environment and processing this information to make driving decisions. While these two technologies are to a certain extent competing with each other, there is potential for them to have complementary, constructive effects for market adoption.

Autonomous vehicle technology uses primarily laser sensing and camera technologies to be able to sense the immediate environment of the vehicle, “read” road signs, and drive the car appropriately. In many ways, this is intended to mimic human perception and optimize decision making by the car itself. Therefore, the information available to make decisions using this technology is limited to that which can be sensed with these sensors. V2X technology, on the other hand, is designed to provide information that cannot necessarily be immediately perceived. One example of this is given by the figure below. If there is a car that is entering a freeway driving the wrong way, the vehicle and driver will not be aware of this until the car is within sight, and in many cases, this may not be enough time to avoid a collision. By incorporating V2X messaging, the driver can be notified that there is a car ahead that is driving the wrong way well in advance of when the car becomes visible. By incorporating this data into the autonomous driving algorithms, it has immense potential to improve safety.

The information communicated by V2X can have additional societal benefits as well, including optimizing fuel efficiency, reducing emissions, and reducing commute times. A leading application for V2X technology is signal phase and timing (SPaT), where traffic light timing patterns are communicated to the vehicle and traffic data is communicated to traffic management agencies to provide mutual benefit. By incorporating this data into autonomous driving algorithms, a self-driving car can know when the upcoming light will turn green and optimize speed appropriately. These are two of many potential applications if autonomous and connected vehicle technologies are integrated. With the concentrated industry activity in both of these fields, integrating the two can provide revolutionary safety and societal benefits.

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Source: ITS International

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