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We sat down with Charles Cochran, P.E., PTOE, RSP, to learn about the ins and outs of connected vehicles.
Q: What are Connected Vehicles?
A: Connected Vehicles use communication technologies to “talk” to other vehicles, drivers, pedestrians, and infrastructure. For example, as a vehicle approaches an intersection outfitted with connected vehicle technology, the traffic signal controller can send a message to the vehicle that the signal is about to turn red. This provides the driver more advance warning so that they can prepare to begin braking, reducing the chance of rear-end crashes. Meanwhile, the pedestrian that is moseying across the intersection and looking down at their phone could get an alert informing them that the signal is about to change and that they need to speed it up.
Q: Why do we need them?
A: The short answer is that humans are really bad at driving. In 2017, over 37,000 people were killed in crashes in the United States. Even though the last few decades have seen significant leaps in traffic safety (due to safer vehicles, stricter drunk driving laws, etc.), about 100 people are still being killed every day in a crash. Connected vehicle technology will help reduce crashes by providing drivers with advance warnings. In addition to the safety benefit, CV communications could help to improve traffic operations by mitigating congestion.
Q: How do cars “talk” to each other?
A: Currently there are two primary communication methods in use today for connected vehicles – Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC) and 5G. Choosing between these two options is one of the bigger debates surrounding connected vehicles right now. DSRC requires roadside radio units be installed at specific spacing intervals. The state DOTs will most likely be responsible for installing and maintaining these, while 5G can run on private cell towers. 5G also offers increased cyber security and wider interoperability.
Q: How much will this technology cost?
A: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that the communication equipment will cost approximately $350 per vehicle.
Q: What’s the difference between Connected and Automated or Autonomous vehicles?
A: Connected Vehicles are first step to having fully Automated Vehicles. While Connected Vehicles involve communications to the transportation network around them, Automated Vehicles come in to play when the vehicles start taking over some of the driving tasks (e.g. automated braking, lane assist, etc.).