Connected Vehicle Technology: More than Bus WiFi

Freeway Bus WiFiA whole new way of driving is looming on the horizon. It’s called connected vehicle technology. Connected vehicle technology forms a grid in which cars and roadway infrastructure can interact. Think of it as an Internet of the Road, connecting vehicles with obstacles, traffic signals, other cars, public transportation vehicles, and more.

Connected vehicle technology can modernize the driving experience by preventing crashes before they happen, rather than simply studying crashes after the fact. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says connected vehicle technology could eliminate 80% of unimpaired vehicle crashes. As such, the National Transportation Safety Board now recommends that all new vehicles be outfitted with connected vehicle technology. We can expect all vehicles to sport connected technology within our lifetimes, if not within the next decade.

For buses and other public transportation vehicles, connected vehicle technology can provide warnings of potential safety situations. For instance, bus drivers will receive an alert if there is a pedestrian in the crosswalk where they’re trying to make a left turn. Another classic bus safety issue, drivers making illegal right turns in front of a bus that’s leaving a stop, will also spur a driver warning. Of course, automobile drivers will also appreciate safety warnings provided by connected technology, alerting them of impending crashes and vehicles changing lanes in blind spots, among other warnings.

Benefits of Connected Vehicle Technology

Prevent crashes. Connected vehicle technology can help drivers avoid crashes before they happen, offsetting human error. Interconnected driving systems could thereby save thousands of lives.
Coordinate traffic. A connected traffic grid can adjust traffic lights to be timed more appropriately for the current conditions. For example, a light could stay green longer when a bus is approaching.
Real-time transit information. If all buses and public trains were interconnected with the grid, it would be possible to collect location information and provide it to riders eager to know when their ride will arrive.
Responsive ride sharing. The up-to-the-minute aspect of interconnected driving systems would make it possible to better connect elderly and low-income riders with human ride providers.
Minimized pollution. Interconnected driving technology applications could help drivers save the planet by avoiding traffic congestion, or choosing more efficient, eco-friendly routes. Vehicle and transit systems can also provide feedback to drivers on how to change their driving techniques to maximize fuel efficiency.

The US Department of Transportation has conducted two stages of several safety tests to conclude that connected vehicles would be safe. In the first portion of the pilot program, the DOT researched whether drivers would accept the new interconnected driving experience; 9 out of 10 drivers preferred connected driving over analog driving. In the second stage of safety testing, Ann Arbor, Michigan was transformed into an interconnected grid. The University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute helped carry out the test, which was made up of volunteer drivers. Participating trucks, cars, and buses were outfitted with V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) and V2I (vehicle-to-infrastructure) wireless communication devices.

To make connected vehicle networks possible, it will be necessary to equip each car, bus, and piece of infrastructure with wired communication devices. Today, some transit operators maintain on-vehicle train and bus WiFi, to improve fleet communication and keep riders connected. Public transit mobile WiFi is still somewhat of a novelty, but the advent of connected driving will make WiFi a necessity. Public transit WiFi will likely be required eventually, as the government recognizes how much connected vehicle technology can do to save lives. As makers of private and public mobile WiFi solutions, we are excited about the possibility of connected vehicle networks, and we’re dedicated to providing reliable, stable WiFi technology to make connected driving possible.

[Photo by Daquella manera via CC License]