1888 Germany, engineer Karl Benz decided to invent the horseless carriage when he was just fifteen years old. He called his invention the patent motor wagon.Twenty years later he is still working on it. There is no doubt that Karl Benz was a genius and determined. But the outside world knows nothing about it. Karl has no idea how to commercialize his invention.Karl's wife Bertha has determined that his idea reach the public. Bertha offers more than support for Karl; she was a risk taker. That time people think replacing horses with a machine is not only foolish, but it's unpatriotic.
In August 1888 Bertha bravely took her husband innovation and embarked the first long journey in the automotive industry, a 180-kilometer trip. Next day she was mentioned in newspaper riding a horseless Carriage. It was not long after in 1908 when Henry Ford assembled the first automobile, that many people could afford, Ford Model T.
People of that time did not understand what it means by “traffic.” There were no road signs, intersection, lane lines, traffic lights, street markings and even no license plates! It took us a while to establish proper roads for cars.
In 1903 the first state-issued license plate was introduced in Massachusetts, US. In 1914 we saw the first red/green traffic lights in Cleveland Ohio. Linking traffic lights was first used in Salt Lake City in 1917 when traffic in six intersections was controlled by a switch.
Our early freeway and highways did not have lane lines. Lane lines weren’t introduced until after the 1930s where head-to-head collision started to increase and the simple solution to solve that was to divide the road. Lane lines were not always white. The first lane applied line in Germany autobahn was black!
It was really after 1945 that all base traffic rule established. The first highways with lane lines emerged in the US. Then, in 1960s US had accepted unified international traffic system and since then the roads are pretty much the same.
So it took us more than 50 years to establish traffic rules and build roads proper for our cars. We added some additional traffic rules to solve serious traffic challenges nowadays, but we are still using 1900s traffic lights, intersection and most of the traffic rules and have our smart cars driving on it.
Well, it’s time to change. I know many people consider driving as enjoyment but I think nowadays for people who are spending regular hours on congested highways, driving is a burden taking away the chance to browse their social media and texting their friends.
Are our roads suitable for smart cars and autonomous vehicles? Do we want to apply 100-year-old road system to our intelligent cars? How do our roads need to evolve as our cars do? Well, definitely not.
Let’s first take a look at smart roads features and then how a vehicle can drive more efficiently on those roads.
There have been many innovations in roads infrastructure lately. These new advancements are in various areas such as paint, material, lighting, and energy.
Netherlands has invested in new road markings using fluorescent materials to glow lane lines in the dark since 2013. This will be easier for vehicles to identify road lines and traffic signs. Also, Netherlands roads are planned to get equipped with dynamic paint technology which reflects driving conditions such as icy road or hot road.They also will introduce interactive wind-powered road lights which will turn on when vehicle or hazards are present on the way.
Solar energy roads are another idea which is currently in development in the USA. These streets can generate three times more energy than current power need in the US. Also, they can be customized, replace and recycled. Solar roads can provide charging lanes for electric vehicles, enhance autonomous vehicles vision and provide further indications for passing pedestrian or animals.
Of course, these advancements can have a significant effect on enhancing self-driving cars vision of the world by using like painting and alerting systems. But is that all? What if our roads were capable of transferring information to intelligent vehicles? Like weather, traffic or even unusual movements?
Intelligent cars as they named are smart and can communicate with their surroundings and other smart buddies through a secure shared network. This concept is usually referred to as Vehicle-to-X Communication.
One example is Vehicle-to-Infrastructure(V2I) Communication. Yes! Infrastructure means roads too. Roads can inform vehicles on traffic information, timing, priority, and location.
Some automakers such as Mercedes, BMW, Audi have already equipped their vehicles with some V2V and V2I communications. It's early yet, but some new vehicle models like the upcoming Mercedes S-Class implemented V2I to adjust speeds based on road conditions.
Audi already released V2I technology called Audi Connect with the traffic light and signals information systems, in A4, A7, Q5 and Q7 models in Las Vegas. This system can communicate to traffic lights and know when the traffic light will be green or red.
The other type of V2X communication is Vehicle-to-Vehicle(V2V) Communication. This can be a great way to control traffic. No need for 1900s intersections anymore. Vehicles will be able to bypass traffic intersections by talking to each other and setting priorities. What does it mean to talk to each other? Well, it means vehicles can share their intent instead of using physical traffic lights over a 5G network, in this case not only the vehicle behind but also all other vehicles will be aware of the move and will lead to a better path planning.
V2V communication can improve fuel efficiency and traffic flow, especially in urban areas.
V2I and V2V technologies used for various purposes. V2V is intended to advance driver safety by connecting vehicles on the road, and help them the pace and the distance from other cars.
V2I technology also has security at its core (traffic lights, pollution levels, hazards, emergency services). But, also, V2I is more intended for traffic flow, fuel consumption, re-routing, parking spots detection, WIFI, mobile charging stations; conform to Dr. Joachim Taiber, the research professor at Clemson University.
There are other types of communications there too. Vehicle-to-Pedestrian and Vehicle-to-Network Communication. These can provide cars with some useful information on real-time traffic and weather using cloud services.Safety alerts for bicyclists and trespassing alerts also can be transferred by V2P communications.
From 2020, V2X (Vehicle to Everything) and its components, V2P, V2V and V2I technology, will take an active role in semi-autonomous cars as this is proposed by Department of Transportation(DOT) in 2016. Also, Qualcomm is intended to release its advanced 5G high bandwidth and low latency network by 2020.
This means as radio sensors will be playing an important role in addition to radar, lidar, and other autonomous driving sensors.
All these technologies and advancements are great but they cannot be effective without policies in place. So, now the time has come that officials take initiatives on legislation on road enhancements and V2X integration.
As Anthony Townsend well said: "It is the policy that is going to affect these changes. Cars did not take over the cities until cities put rules in place that allowed it. It was a choice city governors made"
So let's make that choice again.