Vehicle comms group looks for cash to cut costs

An EU-funded team that claims it has built a virtual control centre able to relay live traffic information from vehicle to vehicle as they travel along a road is looking for new funding to bring the cost down to commercially viable levels

The Com2React team said their vehicle-to-vehicle communications technology could be useful to drivers, traffic police, emergency services and companies with a fleet of vehicles to manage.

"The researchers developed a system to help inform drivers of poor weather or road conditions immediately ahead, allowing them to choose alternate routes, easing congestion and cutting down on accidents," said Dr Chanan Gabay, Com2React's project coordinator.

The software assigns the role of the virtual control centre automatically to one of a group of moving vehicles.

"A lot of areas are not covered by regional traffic control centres," said Gabay. "By creating virtual sub-centres, the system extends the traffic networks to those areas."

The sub-centre obtains and processes data acquired by the group of vehicles and provides the driver with advice on local traffic and safety situations. The software also transmits selective data to a regional control centre and receives current traffic information to distribute to the vehicles. The updated 'common knowledge' is then processed by each vehicle's software, allowing drivers to make informed decisions.

"Local communication is much faster than remote communication and can, therefore, enable an immediate reaction to sudden events," said Gabay.

A prototype system was tested in Munich and Paris last summer. "We showed that the conceptual part of vehicle-to-vehicle communications can be done," Gabay claimed.

Now, the team is looking for further funding to bring down the cost of the system to about €100 a vehicle before it can be accepted by vehicle manufacturers and commercialised. Peugeot is interested in the technology, according to Gabay, but is waiting until the costs are brought down first. Currently, the system costs thousands of euros, he said. The regulation and harmonisation of vehicle-to-vehicle communications could also pose another obstacle to the technology, he said.

The Com2React team is holding seminars with ministers of transport from Israel and with the European Commission in a bid to develop the concept further.

The team is made up of researchers from Motorola, Arttic, Transver, the Technical University of Munich, INRIA, Armines-Ecole des Mines, Everis, Intempora, Telefonica, Sphericon, PSA (Peugeot Citroen), Navteq and the Jerusalem Transportation authorities.

Their business plan forecasts that the concept and technology could be profitable after three years.

"It is a real breakthrough," claimed Gabay. "As far as is known, no distributed programmes are underway in a peer-to-peer mode on top of an ad hoc network implementing a concrete traffic application."

Image: The Com2React team demonstrate the electronics in their communications system

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