The evolution of the automobile has led to bigger and better designs since its invention in 1885 that not have made driving more efficient and safer. Today, electric vehicles (EVs) are roving the streets more than ever before — more than one million are now on U.S. roads. Self-driving cars are changing the game even further. With the growth in electric vehicle usage, what’s the next step for infrastructure?
The newest and coolest (and safest) car on the horizon – the autonomous and connected car – is driving the future of advanced mobility. Self-driving or “autonomous” car technology is already deployed in part as “Advanced Driver Assistance Systems” in many new models, which can include self-parking or anti-collision software. Fully autonomous cars that do not require a human driver are still being developed and tested in controlled programs and complement the new connected technology.
The connected car is a communicative car: it talks to the driver, other cars, and even to infrastructure. Connected technology is already present in automobiles, notably in navigation systems, but a fully connected car would relay immense amounts of information about the driving environment and roadway conditions around it.
Imagine you’re driving, it’s raining, and you see a car crash up ahead. You pull over to call 911 while other drivers slow down or stop to check out the crash scene. Any delay in emergency response could be fatal to the people in the crash. But the new connected vehicle can provide us with all of this data… instantly. Connected cars are continuously communicating, and their data may tell us that, out of all the connected cars on the road, two air-bags were deployed, eight tires skidded, and 100 wind-shield wipers turned on all in the same half-mile of the highway. We instantly can conclude that there was a car crash, hydroplaning, and rain in that location. Emergency services can then be notified immediately, and DOTs and meteorologists can issue relevant recommendations or announcements.
Such a massive quantity of data about cars and roadways has never been available before. It is estimated that by 2022 connected vehicles will produce 150 petabytes of data annually (equal to 15,000 years of television content), making their output the nation’s largest data stream. So how do we maximize the use of this technology to make the data valuable? With communicating cars, we are aware of each problem at hand, car by car, adding up to larger trends. Not only can this data indicate the problem and allow us to provide quicker solutions, over time it can actually help us predict issues and be proactive; the trends and predictions will allow us to intervene before the crash or problem occurs. The potential of this technology appeals to The Ray as an innovative component of safer and more sustainable roads.
The Ray and Panasonic are partnering this month to launch a V2X or the “vehicle-to-everything” data ecosystem to enable Georgia’s first connected interstate roadway! Small and large companies alike agree that these technologies pertain to infrastructure as well as automobiles, and The Ray is looking forward to working with Panasonic and Georgia DOT to advance our interstate with connected data, providing an example for roadways across the globe.
At The Ray, we hear about many new and exciting technologies through submissions to our Suggest a Tech portal and through word of mouth. Some technologies are as new as a brainstormed idea while others are adaptations of existing technology to fit our goals. Much of the technology necessary to improve our highway is already out there; it’s about adapting and brainstorming ways that can transform our roadways to reach the ultimate goal of zero carbon, zero waste, and zero deaths. Roadways stretch across diverse terrain and conditions across the world, so each requires tailored solutions to reach our Mission Zero.
Understanding the unique and varied conditions of our roadways allows us to imagine technological solutions that remedy the specific, known problem. For example, Argentina’s hilly landscape and winding roads present problems for smaller vehicles attempting to pass a semi-truck. This has contributed to their rising rate of automobile-related deaths, up to 24 percent as of 2017. On the curving one-lane roads, drivers are unable to see around the larger vehicles and many are hit head-on when speeding into the on-coming lane. Recognizing these trends and safety hazards, Samsung piloted a camera on the front of the semi-trailer and a large screen on the back. By watching the screen, the driver behind the truck now can see what the semi-truck driver sees, including oncoming traffic and road conditions. Existing technology in vehicles, like back-up cameras, could play a different role in maintaining safety, potentially even tracking unsafe drivers and regulating traffic. Technologies like this may seem far-fetched for the United States and would be regulated by the Department of Transportation, but the tech’s creativeness combined with practicality is the kind of solution that fits into The Ray’s zero death initiative. We love learning about technologies like this and hearing suggestions of how to leverage existing technology to improve our roadways.
While all of the ideas we receive are interesting and thought-provoking, the bigger picture includes system-wide transformations, like the V2X Cirrus data platform that we are building with Georgia DOT and Panasonic. Autonomous and connected vehicles paired with the connected roadway would combine many strategies for vehicle safety and road operation into one, recreating infrastructure as a virtual system with new data at its core. It’s time for the roadways to catch up to the advances seen in automobiles. As automobile designs become safer, more efficient, and cleaner, we are challenged with updating infrastructure to better serve us and the environment. The Ray is at the forefront of this potential, and the V2X project is just the latest example.
Thinking long term, infrastructure plays a key role in the state and country’s technological growth as well as economic growth. Let’s dream big and build not just 18 miles but all 4,071,000 miles of US highways as zero carbon, zero waste, and zero death!