It seems like only yesterday that we had to rely on paper maps for directions and deal with scrapes and scratches on cars from when we got a little too close to a wall or another vehicle. Now GPS is available nearly everywhere and sensor technology or rearview cameras in most newer cars will at least keep you from backing into something (or someone). But with the latest autonomous technology, not only will your car communicate with you, but also with other vehicles on the road and the road itself. Automakers are testing new ways for this “vehicle to vehicle communication” to keep up safer on the roads. New models of some vehicles also have self-driving features that allow the car to take over driving in some situations. And technology is being developed to even let the roads communicate with your car. While we may not have truly autonomous cars yet, all of this new technology is leading us in that direction. Here are some existing ways your vehicle communicates, and some that are coming.
Talking to Each Other
New innovations touted as safety features are already in some cars. In fact, they fall under the category of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication and are paving the way toward autonomous cars that will let you sit back and read the paper on your commute. But before we get fully autonomous vehicles on a mass scale, we will get cars that will be able to communicate with each other and automatically brake if the vehicle in front changes its speed or stops in the road. They will also be able to take in information about traffic and accidents ahead or emergency vehicles behind you. The US government talked about a mandate requiring all new cars to have this technology but it did not get approved. Major car companies like Ford are testing this technology anyway, and according to a study by the National Highway Safety Administration, this V2V communication could reduce 79 percent of vehicle crashes.
In the future, cars could take part in “platooning” using the V2V technology. Cars would drive together as a unit in close proximity while communicating with each other. This could decrease accidents because the cars are in constant communication and reacting to each other.
Talking to the Roads
How many times have you been distracted while driving and not noticed a change in the speed limit or a sign warning of upcoming construction? New vehicle-to-infrastructure technology is being developed that will allow the roads and highways to “talk” to your equipped vehicle about dangers or changes ahead. For instance, cars would be able to communicate with road signs or traffic signals and increase safety. The technology could also be used to find the best route based on the road conditions being communicated with your vehicle.
Keep Your Eyes on the Road
Many of us take for granted things like backup cameras or beeping sensors that keep us from having a scratched bumper or front fender. But these technologies are only the tip of the iceberg. New digital dashboards “talk” to the roads and display upcoming signs signaling changes in speed or construction. Other cars take it a step further and use the same technology as in jet cockpits to display notifications as a sort of hologram on the windshield so you can keep your eyes on the road.
The march towards fully autonomous cars has begun but is not all there yet. However, some cars already offer the first glimpses of what it will be like to have the car drive you, and you may not even realize it. Partially autonomous vehicles already exist and allow you to let the car take control for short periods of time. Features like stop-and-go adaptive cruise control, lane-centering steering, and hands-free steering that autonomously accelerate, brake or steer for short periods of time in uncomplicated traffic situations. While some 2018 BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover and Mercedes-Benz models have these features, it’s not only high-end brands introducing new autonomous technology. Some Honda, Ford, Toyota, and GM vehicles (among others) also have these features. While the new technology allows you to take a break while driving, you still need to pay attention in case the car doesn’t react when it needs to.
Written by Andrea Heisinger, Junior Online Editor for Sixt US