The evolution of the automobile has presented bigger and better designs since its birth in 1885 that not only have made driving more efficient but also safer. Today, electric vehicles are roving the streets more than ever before with more than one million EVs on the roads across the US, and self-driving cars are changing the game even further. With the growth in electric vehicle usage, what’s the next step for infrastructure?
The newest and coolest (and safest) car on the market – the autonomous and connected car – is driving the future of advanced automobiles. Self-driving or “autonomous” car technology has already been deployed as seen in self-parking or anti-collision software
. Fully autonomous cars, that would not require a human driver, are in testing and complement the new connected technology. The connected car is a communicative car – it talks to the driver, other cars, and transportation departments. Navigation technologies and GPS data already represent the connected potential of the communicative car, but a fully connected car would relay immense amounts of information about the world and roadway conditions around it.
Imagine you’re driving, it’s raining, and you see a car-crash up ahead. You then pull over and call 911, asking for emergency medical attention, while other passersby stop to check on the vehicles. The time this process takes is crucial to the individuals harmed and to all other cars on the road. But the new connected vehicle can provide us with all of this data… instantly. The autonomous and connected cars are continuously communicating to and from the system. The data tells us that, out of all the cars on the road, two air-bags deploy, eight tires skid, 100 windshield wipers turn on all in the same 0.5 miles of highway. We instantly can conclude that there was a car crash, hydro-planing, and rain in the location. Emergency services can then be notified immediately, and DOTs and meteorologists can make adjustments for safety and weather.
Such a massive quantity of data about cars and roadways has never been available before. It is estimated that by 2022, connected vehicles will produce the nation’s largest data stream worth 150 petabytes annually (equal to 15,000 years of television content). So how do we maximize the use of this technology to make the data valuable? With communicating cars, we are aware of each problem at hand, car by car, adding up to larger trends. Not only can this data indicate the problem and allow us to provide quicker solutions, it helps us become predictive. The trends and predictions built over time will teach us to intervene before the crash or problem occurs. The potential of this technology appealed to The Ray as an innovative way for a safer, connected, and more sustainable road.
At The Ray, we receive many new and exciting technology suggestions through our Suggest a Tech portal and through word of mouth. The technologies may be as new as a brainstormed idea or may be adaptations of existing technology to fit our goals. The technology is out there; it’s about adapting and brainstorming new ideas that can transform our roadways to the ultimate goal of zero carbon, zero waste, and zero deaths. Understanding the environmental factors available, technology allows companies to address safety concerns at the root and to imagine solutions to fit today’s world.
For example, Argentina’s hilly landscape and winding roads present problems for smaller vehicles who may attempt to pass a semi-truck. This has contributed to their rising rate of automobile-related deaths, up to 24 percent as of 2017
. On the curving one-lane roads, the drivers are unable to see around the larger vehicles and end up getting into accidents when trying to peek into the on-coming lane. Recognizing these trends and safety hazards, Samsung put a camera on the front of the semi-trailer and a large screen on the back.
The driver behind the truck can now see what the semi-truck driver sees, and knows the conditions, including the fact that on-coming cars are up ahead, simply by watching the screen. Already-included technology in vehicles, like back-up cameras, could play a different role in maintaining safety, potentially even tracking unsafe drivers and regulating traffic. Technologies like this may seem far-fetched for the United States and must be relegated in the Departments of Transportation, but the creativeness combined with practicality are the kinds of solutions that fit into The Ray’s zero death initiative. We love learning about these technologies and hearing suggestions on how to take existing technology and use it to further roadway technology.
While all the ideas we receive are interesting and thought-provoking, the bigger picture includes system wide transformations, like the one we’re piloting with Georgia DOT and Panasonic in V2X. Autonomous and connected vehicles paired with the connected roadway would combine many strategies for vehicle safety and regulation into one, recreating infrastructure as a system, at the core of its data. It’s time the roadways back up the advances seen in automobiles. As automobile designs become safer and more environmentally friendly, we are challenged with updating infrastructure to better serve us and the environment. The Ray is at the forefront of this potential and the V2X project is just the latest example. Thinking long term, infrastructure plays a key role in the state and country’s technological growth as well as economic growth.
Let’s dream big and build not just 18 miles but XXX miles of zero carbon, zero waste, and zero death highways!