14 April 2008
Cars will be capable of exchanging information between one another and the surrounding area thanks to Internet and Wi-Fi connections, preventing accidents and traffic jams. However, the first vehicles of this kind will not arrive until 2015.
Do not be surprised when, within a few years time, the bill that covers broadband, calls, TV and mobile phones also includes an Internet connection for the car. Four researchers of Madrid’s Carlos III University (UC3M) have designed a mechanism that allows safe inter-vehicle communication via the Internet.
This is one of many steps that have been taken in a European initiative aimed at improving road safety using the latest technologies. The European Union has set the goal of reducing the number of road accidents by half in 2010. 105 million euros have been allocated for research into this technology. The vehicles of the future will be interconnected via the Internet on a mobile and wireless network, ABC heard from Carlos Bernardos, the author (alongside María Calderón, Ignacio Soto and Arturo Azcorra) of the study conducted by UC3M’s Department of Telematic Engineering, published in the Computer Communications journal.
The mobile network designed by the group of engineers is based on a Wi-Fi standard specific to the vehicle environment (802.11p) which reaches ranges of 500 metres.
More efficient roads
In the future, thanks to this connectivity, if a car brakes suddenly, nearby cars will immediately be informed.
The exchange of information via the Internet will not only connect one vehicle to another, but also link vehicles to signs or beacons located on the road. If there is a traffic jam, Bernardos explains, the car will inform a device located on the road, which will warn other cars and prevent an accident. In addition to improving safety at the wheel, the projects financed by the EU aim to improve the efficiency of roads.
Many hold-ups are caused by vehicles stopping intermittently. This interconnection will allow the speed of vehicles to be synchronised to avoid traffic jams. The speed may also be adjusted so that, when the driver arrives at a junction, the traffic lights are always green, says the academic Bernardos.
The body responsible for designing the potential applications deriving from wireless connectivity in movement (and its general architecture) is the European consortium Car 2 Car (www.car-to-car.org).
This consortium is made up of car manufactures and some companies that specialise in devices for cars. The Internet connection in cars, via an integrated PC, will allow access to the Web with everyday devices (GPS, DVD, PDA, laptop, console etc).
Imagine being able to download music, watch films or videos on YouTube, play games online with people all over the world, surf the Internet, check e-mails and even communicate via instant messages with friends travelling in a nearby car.
The devices we currently use could be continually updated with software via the Internet. It would be possible to know when a part needs replacing without having to go to a garage. But none of this will be possible before 2015, because there will be no vehicles equipped to do it until then.