Volvo talks the talk

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Volvo Trucks says it is well on its way to producing a technology that enables vehicles to communicate with each other, in a bid to increase road safety.

The technology is known as a co-operative system, and is designed to alert drivers to oncoming traffic, which can be obscured by bad weather conditions, or road accidents. Information is then relayed automatically on to other vehicles behind, and so on.

The technology is being developed within the framework of Safespot, a pan-European research project part-funded by the European Union, of which Volvo is a part.

The system combines three technologies: Accurate Co-operative Localisation, Local Dynamic Maps and Ad-Hoc Communication Networking.

Project manager Johan Fjellström said: “The aim is to pinpoint position with such precision that the margin of error is less than a metre.”

To achieve the required degree of precision, GPS data is used, along with information from the vehicle’s sensors and knowledge about the exact location of various fixed points in the landscape such as lamp-posts and roads, obtained from the system’s Local Dynamic Map.

The map is a centralised database which integrates information from a regular digital map with layers of information gathered from other vehicles or from the infrastructure.

“The idea is to give the driver advance notification of relevant information about what is happening on the road, based on data from the position and speed of other vehicles, the condition of the road and any obstacles up ahead,” said Fjellström.

Research is now being conducted into how cars and trucks can communicate with one another and how infrastructure can be developed into the system.

The project was initially established in reaction to the 40,000 deaths and 1.7 million injuries recorded each year on Europe’s roads, and the £138 billion corresponding cost. 

The project now includes 51 participants from 12 European countries. Many of the major European vehicle manufacturers are involved, along with suppliers, universities and road administration authorities.

The Safespot project has tested various applications such as safety at crossings, warning of an impending frontal collision, poor road conditions and alerting to the presence of cyclists or pedestrians.

Also, infrastructure-based applications such as speed warning, information about accidents that have occurred and the creation of safety margins for emergency rescue vehicles. The driver receives this information via a display or sound/light signals in the vehicle. This information can also be transmitted via signs or flashing lights at the roadside.

Fjellström reckons one of the biggest benefits of the system is that drivers can receive information much earlier, about events beyond the range of their own vision including things happening in other vehicles.

“This would be impossible without the various co-operative systems. What is more, a wide range of safety applications can be covered by one single system – something that would otherwise require many sensors of conventional type, such as radar.”

The project is to conclude in 2010.

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