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Virginia Tech receives funding to develop vehicle-to-vehicle communication framework


February 18, 2014

VTTI researchers demonstrate connected-vehicle technology on the Northern Virginia Connected-vehicle Test Bed (Photo: Logan Wallace)

VTTI researchers demonstrate connected-vehicle technology on the Northern Virginia Connected-vehicle Test Bed (Photo: Logan Wallace)

An important element to the notion of self-driving cars is that they are able to communicate between each other and surrounding infrastructure. While automotive manufacturers have begun to explore this technology and even banded together to hasten its emergence, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has been quietly working toward a similar goal. With the an award of US$1 million in funding courtesy of the US Department of Transportation, its researchers hope to develop a framework to facilitate a safe future for autonomous vehicles.

The federal funding will supplement a $3 million project already underway at the institute, which aims to establish a reference guide for app developers and manufacturers of driving systems on how motorists can safely and effectively receive communications from the vehicles and infrastructure.

Thus far, the institute has conducted testing for communicating information such as weather and traffic reports to drivers without compromising safety. This has involved interfaces such as windshield augmented reality pop-ups and audible devices both in simulation and on actual highways where the driver interacts through voice and hand gestures.

"Vehicle-to-vehicle technology represents the next generation of auto safety improvements, building on the life-saving achievements we’ve already seen with safety belts and air bags," said US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "By helping drivers avoid crashes, this technology will play a key role in improving the way people get where they need to go while ensuring that the US remains the leader in the global automotive industry.”

In coordination with the State Department of Transportation, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute already has a $14 million test bed in place. It contains 43 wireless infrastructure devices which, situated along two interstate highways, send basic safety messages to a fleet of test cars, trucks and motorcycles also fitted with wireless systems.

Challenges that the institute is aiming to overcome include the creation of uniform warnings across different devices and vehicles, determining what is pertinent information for different road users (a truck driver and a motorcycle rider for example) and also securing the systems against hackers.

"We see this as a hugely progressive move," said Zac Doerzaph, director of the institute’s Center for Advanced Automotive Research and lead investigator on the project. "Vehicle communication technology has the great ability to improve safety, if it is implemented in a wise and safe way. We’re trying to get ahead of the game to ensure design before connectivity proliferates the entire driving experience."

Source: Virginia Tech Transportation Institute

About the Author
Nick Lavars Nick was born outside of Melbourne, Australia, with a general curiosity that has drawn him to some distant (and very cold) places. Somewhere between enduring a winter in the Canadian Rockies and trekking through Chilean Patagonia, he graduated from university and pursued a career in journalism. Having worked for publications such as The Santiago Times and The Conversation, he now writes for Gizmag from Melbourne, excited by tech and all forms of innovation, the city's bizarre weather and curried egg sandwiches. All articles by Nick Lavars

At last! Although I will never, but absolutely never, ride in a self-driving car of any kind, I can see that there is a real benefit to be gained from computerising many of the mundane tasks that the driver currently has to perform.

Imagine how much road rage would be avoided if the cars' computers resolved which vehicle gave way to which at road junctions etc. and automatically cleared a path for emergency vehicles when required. Imagine that the moment an accident happened, all vehicles headed towards the scene were automatically caused to slow down and come to rest in an orderly manner or steer round it.

All it really takes is to link this system to the vehicle's fly-by-wire throttle (or rheostat if electric); have a steering column capable of mechanically telling the driver to steer left or right; add a head up display to confirm all computer dictated actions and that will be about far enough for me to go along the path towards self-driving vehicles.

I hope that they succeed in making the system guaranteed hacker proof - easier said than done, I fear, and that globally the car industry arrives at a unified system, so that any car can operate in any country that has such a system in operation.

Mel Tisdale

This is great! I am hoping for a future where my car will find out that there's an accident 10 miles ahead with 2 miles of backed up traffic and that it can route me around the mess -- helping both me and helping the people around the accident to get things cleared up quickly and efficiently.

I do have big brother and big government taxing fears that are implicit with this technology though. No tracking data must be stored for future data mining!


What wireless system will this use? Cellular is too easily blocked, wifi doesn't have the range and is already clogged. What will be the build out on this? What frequencies are being used in tests? Who owns those freqs? What happens out in the desert or in open country?

Jim Cochran
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