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Cars that can talk to each other: what will this technology change?


Preventing collisions and reducing traffic are the two main objectives of communicative cars.

Connected cars are no longer just the stuff of science fiction. In a technological undertaking set to transform the way drivers interact with their surroundings, major carmakers and electronics giants are busy working on projects that will enable vehicles to communicate with each other in real time using the latest 5G technology. Taking to the road in intelligent transport vehicles with this kind of functionality should improve safety and traffic flow while also making journeys more comfortable. Guillaume Devauchelle, Group Innovation & Scientific Development Vice-President for French automotive equipment supplier Valeo, says that one of the benefits will be avoiding the risk of collisions. As one car brakes, it will be able to communicate that information to the vehicle behind it so that it brakes accordingly, too. Another advantage will be reducing the accordion effect that can occur in traffic. The Valeo expert explains that “when a traffic light turns green, a line of cars can take a long time to restart, as each one is waiting for the one in front to start moving. With a connected system, all the cars will be able to start up at the same time, like a train.” Implementing this technology should have a positive impact in big cities, helping to decrease the number of traffic jams and reduce pollution.

Intelligent transport

Groupe PSA recently unveiled unique technology in this area. Following a year of work on the project, the European carmaker and Qualcomm Technologies took the first car equipped with Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) technology for a spin at Groupe PSA’s Rennes plant last March. With this system installed, the DS 7 Crossback used for the trial run was able to communicate via telephone operator networks thanks to sensors and a cellular modem, which exchanged data through the 5G network within a one kilometre radius. During the trial, the driver was alerted by a warning message on the dashboard and a beep when a vehicle a few metres ahead braked suddenly.

This technology is designed to be used as part of an intelligent transport system through which vehicles can also communicate with their surroundings (road infrastructure, pedestrians and cyclists, for example). In the near future, it will be possible for road safety authorities to intervene remotely to slow a vehicle down in the event of imminent danger – and a lot of drivers are less than delighted by the idea. According to Forrester study “The Retrofit Future of the Connected Car”, people in Europe remain sceptical. Only 18% of people surveyed said they would be interested in connecting their cars to the internet today.

Automatic valet parking

But the idea could be met with greater enthusiasm once connected cars have become a reality. Valeo, for example, intends to develop applications that would tell drivers where to find empty parking spaces across a whole city by centralising data reported by vehicle sensors. This would help users save valuable time. From next year, the French automotive equipment supplier hopes to test a smart parking service, whereby drivers can leave their vehicle at a car park entrance and let it find an available space on its own. This option is particularly attractive for car hire companies.

C-V2X technology will make its initial début in China, where 20% of new vehicles in the country are expected to be fitted with the system by 2020, 30% by 2023 and 50% by 2025. In Europe, the technology is now pending approval. BMW, Daimler, Deutsche Telekom and Ericsson have suggested to the European Commission that it be standardised.

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