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The global demand for automobiles is increasing at a substantial rate since 2010. This growth is observed at an annual average growth rate (AAGR) of 4.42% (2010 - 2011) and 4.88% (2011 - 2012) in the recent years. Factors such as improving infrastructure, increased per capita income, enhanced standard of living, availability of easier financial options and need for the personal transportation are fueling the demand for personal cars. On the other hand, reasons such as, growing construction activities, increasing overall freight movement due to commercialization and industrialization are influencing the demand for commercial vehicles. This demand is projected to continue for next five years, and across all vehicle segments.
Even though, rising vehicle demand has enforced the automotive industry to come up with new technologies, and features, the increased vehicle fleet has increased the number of road accidents, and deaths. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Status Report on Road Safety (2013), total number of road traffic deaths equals to 1.24 million per year. The same report quotes, only 28 countries over the world have sufficient laws encompassing major five risk factors (speed, drink-drive, helmets, seat belts and child restraints) in road safety. In addition, the increased vehicle fleet is contributing to gaseous and particulate matter (PM) emissions, thus, challenging environmental regulations. However, according to a group of industrial experts, automation of the vehicle is the solution for this increasing traffic and road accidents. The automation of the car has two technological fronts: modifying car with advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) technologies or modifying external environment.
The later type - modification of the external environment, involves two technologies Automated Highway System (AHS) and Vehicle Infrastructure Integration (VII). Both these technologies fall under the umbrella of Intelligent Transport System (ITS). AHS works using magnets, highway computers, roadside beacons, mobile infrastructures, wireless communications, etc. In this, the vehicle is installed with signal transmitters and receivers or GPS - satellite like technologies, which help the vehicle to drive by itself. Another type, VII, comprises road maps and vehicle to vehicle (V2V) communication. In this, vehicle either gathers help from updated road features or it communicates with other vehicles in vicinity with the help of the sensors installed.
VII is the study for application development which directly links the vehicle with its external environment using various engineering streams (such as transport, electrical, automotive and computer engineering). The VII is said to build a safer, efficient, and appropriate road infrastructure by establishing a link between vehicles and between vehicles & roadside features. The practical examples of VII applications are GPS, vehicle registration number plates, mobile phone signals etc. According to U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), the development of effective crash avoidance systems in VII would be a critical step. USDOT is involved in the development of such systems and some of the developed systems are: emergency brake light warning, forward collision warning, intersection movement assist, blind spot with lane change assist, Do Not Pass warning, and control loss warning.
Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) communication, Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I) communication and Vehicle to Device (V2D) communication are the sub-segments which fall under VII. All these concepts are collectively known as V2X communication technologies.
The first concept of V2V or car to car (C2C) communication or cooperative cars is technology in which vehicles in vicinity communicate so as to maintain the coordination and avoid collisions or traffic jams. This communication exchanges vast amount of wireless data including position, speed, and location of the vehicles in the environs. The data can then be analyzed and used for detecting threats, take proactive actions to avoid collisions or accidents, providing guidance to the driver/vehicle etc. According to Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) of U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), implementation of V2V would help to reduce the annual road crashes by 76%.
The V2I communication is an expanded stage of V2V communication. In this design, the vehicles would not only ‘talk’ to each other, but they will also coordinate with distinct roadside units (RSUs) (such as beacons or magnetic signature detectors etc.) placed for the same purpose. The V2I communication systems would take care of vulnerable situations (such as collisions or fatal accidents) which have escaped from the scope of V2V communication system. In addition, it will also deal with factors such as intersection safety, speed management, roadway departure prevention, rail crossing operations, priority assignment for emergency vehicles and pedestrian safety.
V2D is sub-type of VII, usually accompanying V2V or V2I communications systems. The V2D type of communication uses mobile devices or PDAs to connect to either V2I or V2V communication systems. The V2D type communication is similar to mobile ad hoc network (MANET), which is a wirelessly connected, self-configuring network of mobile devices. In this, the mobile device can move irrelevant of the position of the other devices and accordingly setup its network by changing its links. On the similar lines, the technology used in the moving vehicles is known as Vehicular Ad-Hoc Network (VANET). The key function of these aforesaid communication systems is to represent a safer & efficient road network for vehicles to reduce traffic congestions and collisions.
The aforementioned technologies of autonomous driving, once implemented, are anticipated to show results such as better fuel efficiency, reduced collision/accidents, lessened time of travel, and reduction in GHG emissions. However, such cars are either in their R&D stage or available in prototypes and implementation of such concepts would first have to pass the various stages. Some of the steps of these stages include - application development, interoperability, cost-benefit as well as feasibility analysis, commercialization, legal issues and acceptability.
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