$22m trial to get vehicles to 'talk'

$22m trial to get vehicles to 'talk'

A speedy wireless technology that allows vehicles to detect other vehicles in blind spots will soon be tried out on the campus of Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

The university yesterday launched a $22 million four-year programme with Dutch semiconductor group NXP to test the emerging technology, which allows vehicles to "talk" to each other as well as to road infrastructure such as traffic signals.

The V2X - vehicle-to-everything - technology is said to enhance safety and efficiency.

It uses an ultra-high-speed wireless platform that allows vehicles to detect other vehicles in blind spots, along with data such as their speed and direction - well before other line-of-sight technologies like radar and cameras can "see" them.

Largely funded by the Economic Development Board, the test will involve 100 vehicles and 50 roadside components installed on the NTU campus' 12km road network.

NTU associate professor Peter Chong said the test fleet will be equipped and the roadside components in place by June next year. If successful, the goal is to commercialise the technology.

NXP senior vice-president Drue Freeman said V2X can be implemented "in the near term" around the world, before driverless vehicles become a reality.

He noted that these autonomous vehicles rely largely on line-of-sight technologies and can operate only in a well-mapped environment.

"When summer turns to fall, and the trees all lose their leaves, an autonomous vehicle might not work because it would no longer recognise the street," he said.

Mr Freeman said the main draw of V2X is safety. The accident involving a speeding Ferrari that killed three people when it ran a red light in Victoria Street three years ago could have been prevented if V2X technology had been in place.

For instance, an alarm would have gone off in the Ferrari. Other vehicles in the vicinity would have been warned too. This scenario, however, would not be tested at NTU.

Mr Freeman said similar tests have already been conducted by others, including the United States Department of Transportation and the University of Michigan.

The NTU test will focus on areas such as security against hacking, and car convoying, where cars follow one another in a tight formation to optimise traffic flow.

Another area is cooperative intersections, where traffic lights can vary to accommodate, say, emergency vehicles.

In an ideal case, NXP director Karsten Penno said, "there may be no more need for traffic lights in the future" as cars can communicate with one another and decide which has right of way and when.

Prof Chong said the NTU campus was ideal for such a test bed as it is representative of a small community. "We have over 36,000 people here on 200ha, with restaurants, supermarkets, shops, clinics, a sports centre and even pubs," he noted.

He said the programme is open to all related players, and could also include autonomous vehicles.

christan@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on April 11, 2015.
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