It’s fair to say Donald Grimm has confidence in General Motors Corp.’s vehicle-to-vehicle (V-to-V) communication system. Grimm, a senior researcher at the automaker’s Electrical & Controls Integration Lab, proved the value of the technology in a harrowing demonstration that involved driving one car at another and waiting for an autonomous braking system to kick in. True to form, the vehicle “recognized” the presence of the other car, actuated the brakes and lurched to a stop. Grimm and the car’s occupants were unharmed.
“An algorithm in the vehicle gives the driver every possible warning,” Grimm says. “But if the driver isn’t responding, it takes over and stops the car.”
Indeed, GM’s V-to-V vehicle stopped itself and did more, recognizing the presence of vehicles in its blind spot, “seeing” cars that were parked on the side of the road and even noticing erratic behavior of adjacent drivers. A separate “vehicle-to-infrastructure” test car also sensed the presence of stop signs, traffic lights and railroad crossings.
The technology demonstration, held for Design News at GM’s Technical Center, represents the tip of an industry effort that could reduce highway fatalities by an astounding 80 percent. GM’s demonstrator vehicles use 5.9-GHz dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) transceiver boards that enable them to talk to one another and to intersections that are also equipped with the boards. Together with global positioning systems (GPS), the DSRC communication messages enable vehicles to “know” what’s around them and to alert drivers.
“We’re really just trying to warn them when they are engaging in high-risk behavior,” Grimm says. “It’s like a second set of eyes. We want to make them aware of potential dangers.”
The research vehicles demonstrated for Design News incorporate small displays mounted atop their dashboards. They warn drivers with lights on the displays, as well as with haptic seat vibrations, brake pulsations and electronically generated voices. When a vehicle ahead pulled over and blocked the road, for example, the V-to-V car “saw” it and alerted the driver with a red hazard triangle on the dashboard display. The autonomous braking system turned on only after all other warnings failed.
GM is working with other manufacturers – including Chrysler, Ford, Toyota and Honda – in a consortium called CICAS (Cooperative Intersection Collision Avoidance System) that hopes to develop the technology for production cars. Automakers consider the technology very promising because it eliminates the need for the costly radar and ultrasonic sensors that are now used in autonomous vehicles, like those demonstrated at the DARPA Grand Challenge.
“This is a compelling technology,” Grimm said. “Somewhere down the line, we expect to see it in every vehicle.”