Almost every driver has experienced the unease of hearing an emergency vehicle’s siren but not being sure where it’s coming from, or how close the vehicle is.
Pioneering work at the Queensland University of Technology’s Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety (CARRS-Q) could put an end to that feeling – and help emergency vehicles get on their way faster.
Better yet, it’s all based around existing technology, including the forthcoming 802.11p standard, a wifi standard optimised for vehicle-to-vehicle communications, and technologies such as heads-up displays, which are gradually creeping into the mainstream. Holden’s recently launched VF Commodore, for example, has HUD in its upper range models.
“The idea is to make transport more efficient by sharing information,” said Dr Sebastien Demmel, a research at CARRS-Q. “We have done field trials of the technology, and also built models to simulate the driving environment.
The idea behind the technology is for cars to communicate information – such as the emergency vehicle approaching, or the fact a car ahead has fully applied its brakes – between groups of vehicles on the road.
The challenge of commercialising the technology, said Demmel, is understanding how much information to feed to the driver. Too much information, he said, could be a bad thing and contribute to an accident, rather than avoid it.
The Centre’s ongoing work is to understand what information communicated between cars is relevant to the driver and their safety, and what information can be safely withheld.
Demmel said basic communications technology using 802.11p could be integrated into the existing vehicle fleet via the aftermarket. More complex integrations, such as into a HUD, would need the technology integrated at the factory level.
What ever way it works out, however, the technology now exists to make car travel safer – and to avoid that sinking feeling when you can’t get out of the way of an ambulance soon enough.