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FULL ARTICLE | EDITORIAL 
Talking cars, just one step towards accident-free driving 
Peter Schmidt | Editor

Published: Fri, 16th February 2018 18:58:08 GMT
 

VW WLANp car-to-car sharing

"Go for a drive, a walk, or for a coffee, and increasingly you will spot people communicating with each other. Some may actually be talking to each other, but increasingly it seems texting rather than talking has taken over. With personal mobile communication being today’s norm, echoed by today’s fast falling prices for state-of-the-art satellite navigation systems, minds of road safety experts have naturally focused on the next logical step in road-safety: Automatic car-to-car communication, linked to car communication with infrastructure systems.

So given today’s comparatively cheap cost of communication, it comes perhaps as no surprise that for years some autoindustry visionaries, have been working on experimental vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems. 

Put simply, vehicles that continuously talk to one another without any human interaction. 

That’s by way of using WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network) as the chosen means of communication. After the decision to standardise on the WLANp system, yesterday Volkswagen said that from 2019 it will use that system on volume cars. 

 Used as standard equipment on new models without extra cost will   “significantly improve safety on the roads of Europe”, Volkswagen said. 

This is by no means new. Just a handful of years ago, real world experiments on car-to-car communications were already well underway. 

That’s not just between cars, but also between cars and traffic monitoring systems. In theory at least, in an ideal world of such communication, drivers could be treated to notorious green waves, provided of course that the car sticks to the systems’ advisory speed. 

Apart from the odd field experiments, not much came from these early experiments. 

Until now it seems. 

Why? 

Autonomous cars, or more likely in the real world, the first lone autonomous taxis could be with us sooner rather than later. 

Because of necessity, chiefly cautious safety legislators the world over, obligatory rules and regulations may be about to be introduced that require cars to talk to one another to avoid approaching collisions. 

Given today’s race to develop a viable autonomous future for the motor car, likely to result in city taxis in the first phase and truly autonomous conventional private cars a great deal later, car-to-car communications has suddenly moved back into the limelight. 

Evidently, with safety, rather than technology being the key to a realistic autonomous automotive future, cars talking to one-another has become a priority once more. 

Volkswagen Group says cars using the chosen WLANp system will go into production from next year onwards. 

Between these vehicles and traffic-infrastructure, traffic-relevant information will be exchanged within a few milliseconds in the local environment of about 500 metres. 

Credit to Volkswagen Group for its intention to fit these all too obvious car-to-car and car to traffic infrastructure systems into its cars from next year. 

But for the maximum safety benefits as intended, all future new cars, not just VW Group vehicles must conform to the same WLANp standard. 

And that, it seems, is the crux of an otherwise admirable Volkswagen move.

It sends a clarion-clear signal to legislators. 

In the road safety rulebook, patience is not a virtue. 

The idea that one single carmaker, the Volkswagen Group, is about to get this particular ball rolling is the good news. 

Less good however, for maximum benefit, every new car must be fitted as standard with such a system. 

This calls for nothing less than an imminent mandatory move to fit this system as standard to all new vehicles.
 

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