Do you know that your car could communicate, that is, exchange information, with traffic lights, roads, signs, but also with other vehicles? The technology for communication between vehicles and infrastructure already exists, and a bright future awaits, in which driving will become not only safer for all road users but also more comfortable, with significant fuel and time savings.
Although it may seem like a world out of a sci-fi movie at first glance, this vision of the future of the automotive industry and autonomous driving is something that IT experts are already working hard on.
In order to find out the role of developers in the development of the automotive industry, we spoke with Eugeny Polchenko, Program Manager at Luxoft, who works with the world's largest car manufacturers and Tier 1 companies on the development of the latest solutions for cameras, then on the improvement of computer vision algorithms for lidar, optimization of embedded software for radars and many other futuristic technologies that will contribute to making autonomous driving a reality.
What is the biggest advance in the development of autonomous driving?
The greatest progress can be seen in the development of communication between vehicles and other important traffic participants. I am primarily referring to the V2I (vehicle-to-infrastructure) technology, which represents the wireless exchange of data between the vehicle and the road infrastructure. Horizontal and vertical signaling, traffic lights, and ramps can wirelessly transmit information to cars and receive them with the help of RSUs (roadside units). This information is used to collect data and notify road users in real time about congestion, traffic accidents, weather conditions, and parking. All of this contributes to controlling the flow of traffic, limiting speed and many other aspects, increasing the safety of both drivers and pedestrians and at the same time contributing to saving fuel and reducing CO2 emissions.
Sensors, radars, lidars, cameras and GPS devices are widely used in modern ADAS systems (advanced driver assistance systems), which allow drivers to perceive and analyze the environment. These systems actively participate in communication with the road infrastructure. Lidars make it possible to detect objects that are standing (banks, poles) or moving (birds, animals) toward the car. Radars make it possible to control the position of vehicles in traffic, and cameras read markings on road surfaces.
In order to achieve safe driving, this information needs to be transferred to other vehicles using V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) technology. Besides V2V and V2I technologies, there is also V2P (vehicle-to-pedestrian), V2N (vehicle-to-network), as well as V2X (vehicle-to-everything).
The two basic components of the V2I system are the infrastructure application component and the vehicle application component. They combine and process both infrastructure and vehicle data to deliver consistent and accurate messages to drivers. Information comes through a wireless data interface. Similar to V2V technology, V2I uses DSRC (dedicated short-range communications) channels.
The current infrastructure in the world is not ideal for these technologies. In order to fully implement V2I, smart solutions must be created.
What are all the improvements the existing infrastructure needs?
Here are a few technologies that could positively impact road quality, safety and mobility.
- Improved road markings (horizontal signaling)
Markings are needed that will be visible to people and cars in all conditions: fog, mud, snow... One such solution was created in the Dutch city of Os, where an experimental road of 500 meters was built, with special luminous road markings, which are powered by the sun during the day and glow in the dark.
- Smart signs (vertical signage)
Traffic signs that would be visible to drivers and vehicles in all weather conditions are also necessary. Reflective signs enable better readability, resulting in more accurate navigation and faster decision-making by both the driver and the ADAS system.
- Smart road surfaces
Let's say the Integrated Roadways solution consists of concrete blocks filled with fiber optic sensors and other technologies. The principle of operation is similar to a laptop touchpad: the road can determine exactly at what speed and in which direction the vehicle is moving. If an accident occurs, the system will immediately register it and call the emergency services and the police. The same will happen if the vehicle leaves the road surface at a speed detected by the system as dangerous. If someone goes off the road, notifications will automatically be sent to nearby drivers so they can stop and help, especially at night.
- Passive solutions
In Europe, some passive methods of limiting speed are already used, such as cobblestones, lying policemen, etc.
What V2I technologies already exist?
Numerous technologies are already in use, the most famous of which are:
- Intersection Collision Avoidance System, which warns of a possible red light, helps navigate an intersection or turn, and warns of a stop sign violation
- An application by which traffic lights at intersections count down the remaining time before the lights change, which improves traffic flow
- Solutions that show the availability of parking spaces, service time limits, etc.
- Enlarged signs informing drivers of the height of tunnels or overpasses
- Lane restriction warnings for goods vehicles, public transport or emergency vehicles
Will car prices change because of these technologies?
Tier 1 companies create technologies that will be used by various manufacturers. Automakers are moving toward standardization of internal and operating systems, moving away from individual solutions whenever possible. They prefer to buy ready-made technologies instead of investing in their own development from the beginning, because mass production is cheaper. Some buy solutions with basic configurations, others look for improvements at the technical or software level, and thus the development costs are borne by several manufacturers, which suits everyone, including the end users.
According to preliminary estimates, V2I could prevent up to 75% of all road accidents. Emergency vehicles would reach the injured faster and save lives, smart intersections would detect pedestrians crossing the streets or other road users, and warn drivers and vehicles.
One of the important consequences of autonomous driving would be more efficient use of time, because drivers could use that time for work or pleasure, instead of concentrating on driving. The car would cease to be a luxury and would simply become a means of transportation. According to the Eco-Speed Control test, automated V2I solutions save fuel consumption by around 37.8% and travel time by around 9.3%.
V2I is a key concern for autonomous driving, but how will roads and road infrastructure change and adapt to future self-driving cars? A possible solution would be special lanes equipped with all the necessary technologies, in the first phase of the coexistence of traditional and autonomous vehicles.
Active tests of smart roads and V2I technology are already being carried out in Ohio and Arizona, smart asphalt exists in Colorado, smart parking systems in Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia, and smart technologies are also expected in Norway and Germany, where there are already some smart solutions in some cities.
If you want to make software development for autonomous driving your calling, check out Luxoft's company profile. Maybe tomorrow you will start working on new great solutions.