Audi Joins The List Of Companies Working To Protect Vulnerable Road Users
One of the big objections to the EV transition is that we’re just switching from one kind of car to another. While the exhaust pollutants have been eliminated and the contribution to climate change has been reduced, electric cars are still cars. Among a number of other things, one big issue with cars that going electric alone doesn’t solve is the danger to vulnerable road users, such as those on foot or on a bicycle.
While neglecting to pay attention and driving too quickly are common reasons for drivers hitting pedestrians, cyclists, and those riding electric micromobility options, there are other instances where the driver simply couldn’t see them. This is more common in darkness or when a pedestrian appears suddenly from behind an object. Drivers also have trouble seeing people when they’re backing out of parking spaces.
Many experts (admittedly, many are on automakers’ payrolls) believe that the solution to this problem is through technologies like connected vehicles or C-V2X. This technology offers a direct communication link between cars, bikes, and other modes of transportation, allowing drivers and cyclists alike to receive warnings about potential accidents or hazards in the road ahead. Not only does this help prevent avoidable accidents, but it also paves the way for autonomous vehicles, which will be able to communicate with other connected cars and alert drivers to potential dangers on the road.
Fortunately, that’s something Audi recently proved that it is trying to work on. Audi recently did a public presentation of its Connected Vehicle to Everything (C-V2X) technology in Oceanside, California. The company demonstrated how C-V2X could be used to avoid potential car collisions with cyclists.
C-V2X technology uses cell phone communications to connect a vehicle with its surroundings. This can include everything from stoplights and road signs, to school buses and construction workers. With this tool, Audi drivers can get real-time updates on conditions that might impact their drive, like traffic alerts or changing speed limits. This technology gives drivers the ability to notice potential dangers on the road much sooner, therefore making driving a safer experience overall.
While discussing the many benefits of Audi’s new technology, several use cases were brought up that would be advantageous for both drivers and cyclists. These included:
- Proximity Warning / Front & Rear Collision Warning – When a vehicle and cyclist come closer to one another, a notification appears showing where a possible collision may occur.
- Cross Traffic Alert – If a vehicle is approaching a bicycle from the left or right and there is potential for collision, the detection system will notify the driver.
- Parallel Parking Departure Alert – When a vehicle pulls out of its curbside spot, it can detect if a bicycle is coming up behind it.
- Right Turn Assist (“Right Hook”) – The driver turned on their right turn signal, but the cyclist continued driving straight.
- Left Turn Assist (“Left Cross”) – The vehicle’s turn signal will notify the driver if a cyclist is approaching from the opposite direction, showing that they may enter the turnspace of the car.
C-V2X has the potential to make driving safer by increasing awareness and cooperation between vehicles and cyclists. In March of 2022, Audi announced it was collaborating with Spoke (a mobility platform) to explore technical solutions that would connect cars and bicycles.
The purpose of this collaboration is to use technology to help protect cyclists from being injured or killed on roads. According to the CDC, about 1,000 cyclists die and another 13,000 are hurt in vehicle-related accidents annually in the US. In fact, cyclist fatalities have been rising lately, increasing 5% from 2020 to 2021 with a total of 985 deaths that year.
Audi believes that C-V2X connected mobility is the key to dramatic improvements in roadway safety. Audi joined several other automakers, tech innovators, traffic equipment manufacturers, states, and localities earlier this year in seeking a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) waiver to put C-V2X on American roads immediately. The public comments on this request were overwhelmingly positive, and Audi calls on the FCC to grant the waivers.
Audi, along with other companies, is waiting for the final ruling from the FCC that will ensure that the transportation wireless spectrum remains viable for V2X communications.
Other Companies Are Working On This, Too
Last month, Ford shared that it has been in partnership with partners in academia and industry to create solutions for these dangers and ultimately save lives. These professionals are currently focusing on a new smartphone-based communications technology that has the potential of warning drivers of pedestrians, bicyclists, and other entities on or near the road — even if said obstacles are out of the driver’s line of sight.
At the Intelligent Transportation Society of America’s World Congress in Los Angeles, smartphone app developers demonstrated how their concept for an app running on a pedestrian’s phone uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) messaging to communicate their location to a connected Ford vehicle. If the vehicle calculates a potential crash risk, Ford SYNC can alert drivers by displaying graphics of pedestrians, bicyclists, or more objects on the in-vehicle screen with accompanying audio alerts.
“Newer Ford vehicles already with Ford Co-Pilot360 Technology can detect and help warn drivers of pedestrians, bicyclists, scooter riders and others — and even apply brakes if drivers do not respond in time,” said Jim Buczkowski, Executive Director, Research and Advanced Engineering. “We are now exploring ways to expand vehicle sensing capability, for areas drivers cannot see, to help people drive even more confidently on roads increasingly shared by others using their two feet or two wheels.”
People can create their own wireless networks using radio waves in the 2.4 gigahertz band to communicate with other devices that have similar technology. For example, this is available on many smartphones and works with SYNC connected vehicle technology without any difficult modifications to the automobile needed.
Ford and T-Mobile said that the Ford app can replace BLE communication with T-Mobile’s 5G network. This network reduces data travel time, allowing detection warnings to be immediately shown on the vehicle’s SYNC screen.
This Won’t Please Everybody, But I’ll Take It
I know that the car haters won’t be happy about this, and will point out that eliminating risks to vulnerable road users and eliminating tailpipe emissions aren’t enough. Tire particles, the space needed for streets and highways, and other things are still a problem.
While I personally think many of these arguments are motivated by a desire to control people, I know that there are people who sincerely want to solve the problems. For those sincere people, I’d hope that solving some of the problems with cars in large cities at least looks better than doing nothing.
Featured image provided by Audi.
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