The evolution of the automobile has led to bigger and better designs since its birth in 1885 that not only have made driving more efficient, but also safer. Today, electric vehicles (EVs) are roving the streets more than ever before, with more than one million now on U.S. roads, and 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 deploying 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 and GPS which consistently provide geographical data, 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 is crucial to the individuals harmed and to all proximate cars on the road. 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 deploy, eight tires skid, 100 wind-shield wipers turn on all in the same 0.5 miles of highway. We instantly can conclude that there was a car crash, hydro-planing, and rain in the location. Emergency services can then be notified immediately, and DOTs and meteorologists can make adjustments for safety and weather.
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 annually (equal to 15,000 years of television content), 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 become predictive. The trends and predictions built over time will teach us to intervene before the crash or problem occurs. The potential of this technology appealed to The Ray as an innovative way for a safer, connected, and more sustainable road.
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 receive many new and exciting technology suggestions through our Suggest a Tech portal and through word of mouth. The technologies may be as new as a brainstormed idea, or maybe adaptations of existing technology to fit our goals. The technology is out there; it’s about adapting and brainstorming new ideas that can transform our roadways to the ultimate goal of zero carbon, zero waste, and zero deaths. Roadways stretch across diverse terrain and conditions across the world, each requiring its own determined solutions in 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. The driver behind the truck now can see what the semi-truck driver sees, and has some visibility into the conditions and on-coming traffic by watching the screen. Already-included 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 must be regulated by the Departments of Transportation, but its creativeness combined with practicality are the kinds of solutions that fit into The Ray’s zero death initiative. We love learning about these technologies, and hearing suggestions of how to take existing technology and use it to further roadway technology.
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 system, with new data at its core. It’s time the roadways back up 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!