Can I be a random but safe driver at the same time?

Richard Bradley | 10 Mar 2016 | Comments

The more I think about Intelligent Mobility the more I realise it’s about me being unplanned and random, drifting along through my daily schedule with minimal input. So I want my mobile device to takeover and steer me through my day, allowing me to concentrate all my brain power on how I can build new, disruptive services.

I was therefore delighted when I heard that my mobile will soon take over the interface to my car. This year alone, three giants – Microsoft, Google and Apple – have announced their forthcoming ‘connected car’ platforms. Apple already has CarPlay, Google seems to have something in the works with its Open Automotive Alliance, and Microsoft revealed its ‘Windows for the car’. They all aim to bring the functionality of your mobile device right to your vehicles' center console. And vehicle manufactures, such as Peugeot-Citroen are also creating app develop platforms to deliver an in-vehicle ecosystem of smartphone apps.

But legally, I’m not allowed to use my mobile phone in my car while driving. Route guidance to each of my appointments, along with a few tunes, is of course allowed but will I be allowed to use all the extra functionality without breaking the law or corporate safety policy? Well if the net change in safety is positive then I think that could be a ‘yes’. 

And this is a real possibility with the transition from Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) to Cooperative ACC (CACC). CACC trials are moving at some pace with the UK’s first CACC project just started by the UK-CITE consortium members featuring Jaguar Land Rover. The project includes a 41 mile test route capable of testing both vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure systems on public roads. 

CACC allows a group of vehicles to communicate with each other using a dedicated short range communication creating Vehicular Ad-Hoc Networks (VANeTs). This allows cellular networks to share speed, heading, location, and gap information. CACC systems are expected to provide a number of 'over the horizon' warning systems including: collaborative emergency breaking; emergency vehicle ‘red’ routes; advanced incident warnings; junction stop alerts; do not pass warnings; icy roads ahead, etc. 

And what’s happening to all my data? I don’t want some big corporate to have it for free but I don’t mind my data being used if I benefit or I contribute to the greater good. Aggregating data from connected mobile devices and apps, and uploading it to a traffic management system, introduces a whole new dimension. All the vehicles in my CACC platoon will receive synchronized instruction on the best routes and given a traffic signal ‘green wave’ along that route.

And this data will help improve our simulations of CACC systems, providing better models of human and machine behaviour. Simulations of the humans, vehicles, communications and infrastructure are appearing widely in academia, and Atkins will be developing a more complete simulation platform as part of the recently started FLOURISH Innovate UK project. This test platform will help plan new infrastructure and services that deliver secure, safe and great value CACC systems, as well as ensuring other schemes can work with CACC systems. 

So I look forward to 2016 to see if the safety and efficiency benefits can keep ahead of the mobile app distractions. I expect this year we’ll see a boom in apps around in-vehicle messages, with popular apps on real issues like fuel saving, vehicle servicing and insurance. With driver communities like Waze I wouldn’t be surprised to see ‘cooperative awareness messages’ available to members of the same community, which might be the first steps to CACC. I’m very interested in the data from these apps and we could see these communities taking control of their own data and selling it to predictive modellers like me.  I’ll think about this data as I drive around with my mobile device slowly, but surely, taking over more aspects of running my life.