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Volvo next in line for connected-car tech

Oct 26, 2016
Add Volvo to the list of companies that’s promising car-to-car communications tech – and promising it sooner rather than later.

Toyota already sells a model, the Crown, that can wirelessly “talk” to infrastructure, in Japan, and has done so since last year. Mercedes-Benz has already announced that its E-Class vehicles would have wireless car-to-car communication. That started with the European market and it has since been added to the U.S. and Chinese markets.

For Volvo, the tech will be available on several models in Europe.

“All vehicles in the 90 series – the S90, V90 and XC90 -- will be equipped with it as of the end of this year,” Volvo Senior Vice President for Research and Development Peter Mertens said to Automotive News Europe.

Car-to-car communications works like this: A car’s sensors spot a hazard or traffic backup, then wirelessly inform another vehicle that it’s able to talk to. In turn, the second car can alert its driver.

The tech is billed as something that will both increase safety and also serve as a building block to fully autonomous vehicles.

 “We use a cloud-based system so we don’t need to have a direct link between the vehicles,” Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson said. “It allows us to analyze the information and to look for the ideal distribution to other cars.”

In order for the tech to work, the car must be connected to the internet, so that there can be a data connection.

Volvo’s system will focus on alerting vehicles to low-traction conditions. It will also alert vehicles when another vehicle is stopped with its hazard lights flashing.

There are limits to the tech right now, primarily the fact that only so many cars will be able to talk to each other. As the system becomes available on more vehicles, it is likely to become more useful to drivers. Volvo told Automotive News Europe that it plans to add the system to more models and in more countries, but did not specify which vehicles or countries, nor did it list a timetable.

Cadillac, Audi, and Jaguar/Land Rover are working on similar systems. Cadillac may have it available on some 2017 models, while Audi is already offering two models, the Q7 and A4, with car-to-infrastructure tech in cities that are considered “smart” – Las Vegas and Seattle. Drivers of these cars will see a countdown before a red light turns green, as well as a countdown telling drivers when it’s too late to enter an intersection after the light turns yellow.

Not only will that last feature hopefully prevent accidents, but it may also save drivers on red-light camera tickets.

Car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure systems are also seen as building blocks to autonomous cars, since fully autonomous vehicles will need to “talk” to one another to avoid collisions. “Talking” to infrastructure may help self-driving cars interact with traffic signals.

Another potential benefit of this tech is that it can help drivers “see” around blind spots – imagine if a building is blocking a driver’s line of sight at a stoplight and another vehicle is about to run the red light on the cross street – the system could alert the driver so they don’t accelerate.

Even if fully autonomous cars aren’t realized for a long time – or ever – this tech could make for safer roads, and unlike other tech that’s been talked about, it’s not part of the dim, distant, always-changing future – it’s on the market now. 

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