There is a wider picture that interlinks vehicles to infrastructure, the industry has started to use common terminology for this V2x. V2x is the combination of vehicle to grid/infrastructure/home/vehicles communication technologies.
One thing to point out is that the communication isn’t one way, another is that the deployment of V2x will benefit conventional vehicles as well as H&EVs. In some cases the benefits are the same but there may be additional benefits for H&EVs when it comes to energy consumption and intelligent control strategies.
Vehicle to grid (V2G)
Vehicle to grid covers the connectivity, via a smart meter, of the vehicle to the electricity grid. The use of a smart meter would allow time-based data to be collected including charging rates, time of day, number of vehicles connected at any one time. This is valuable data for the energy and utility sector to be able to help plan energy supply and demand. Smart charging could be bi-directional where the grid could use the energy storage of a population of EVs to balance peaks and troughs in electrical supply.
Vehicle to home (V2H)
The Toyota City Project is an ongoing research project on smart grid technology supported by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
The trial investigates the possibility of using the energy stored in a plug-in vehicle to power the home in times of emergency blackouts or power outage. Nissan have also announced their work in this field and have suggested that a Nissan Leaf with its 24 kWh battery pack could power a home for up to two days. Given the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami, it’s clear to see why Japan is keen to explore using energy in this way.
Vehicle to infrastructure (V2I)
Telemetry and sensor technology enables vehicle connectivity to the Infrastructure and this is where things get really interesting with benefits at all levels. If the infrastructure knows where a vehicle is, intelligent traffic management allows for so-called ‘green waves’ of traffic flow where the amount of slowing down and speeding up is reduced.
Whether it is an individual or a fleet operator the benefit to the road user is improved fuel consumption and energy use; the benefit to the road operator is increased mobility. Traffic lights will form part of ‘junction management’ and could be easily retrofitted with sensors for V2I communications.
As well as mobility improvements there will be benefits to road safety. Some vehicles already exhibit driver assistance technologies like lane departure warning; emergency brake assist and radar cruise control. These systems could intervene to prevent an accident occurring. There are a number of stages leading up to a road traffic accident totalling a ‘time to collision’.
Firstly there is the awareness of an up and coming risk. Road signs, signalling and driver awareness make up this first phase and some vehicles already in production have things like road sign recognition and driver warning systems. If nothing is done (if the driver hasn’t responded correctly to the risk) the second phase is a warning phase where the vehicle systems could provide audible or visual warnings to the driver. Additionally force feedback could be used by tightening the seatbelt, pulsing the brake pedal or other means.
If the driver still does nothing, the vehicle systems controls could intervene and alter the vehicle speed, direction or both. If the accident is inevitable, vehicle systems could be ‘primed’ to operate. Intelligent airbag firing could be deployed as could seatbelt pre-tensioning.
It’s true that these passive safety systems already exist but what’s new is the V2I being able to control them, in order to manage the accident in a way that could lessen damage or injury compared with the deployment alone of the passive safety systems. Post-accident, the vehicle could automatically contact the emergency services and give out information such as vehicle location, accident severity and driver condition.
The idea of this eCall system was proposed in 2001 and the European Commission is targeting 2015 to be when a fully functioning eCall system will be operable throughout the EU.
Issue 48 of proActive included an article on ISO26262 and functional safety and this is directly implicated with V2x and the (semi) automatic control of driver assistance and other safety related vehicle systems.
Specifically, for H&EV users, intelligent control strategies could optimise the control of the vehicle systems by using the infrastructure or environment information. This could be as simple as using the satellite navigation system not just for intelligent journey planning for the shortest journey but additionally controlling the strategy to use the least amount of energy. ‘Cloud-based’ information such as traffic and weather conditions would also allow optimised energy usage.
Vehicle to vehicle (V2V)
A vehicle knowing its position in relation to other vehicles in the locality has the ability to improve road safety to another level by creating an autonomous collision avoidance environment.
Building on the development of V2I systems and the environment infrastructure makes V2V a possibility.
Accurate sensing and wireless communication technologies will allow a vehicle to build up a picture of its surroundings which will enable the control of driver assistance devices to be managed accordingly.
V2x is used to combine the above, particularly V2I and V2V. It should be pointed out that there are no technological barriers to V2x from a technology standpoint, everything that is needed for V2x already exists today.
As recently as June 2013, Mercedes Benz announced that by the end of 2013, its newest vehicles will include the fitment of technologies enabling V2x communication. The systems will also be available to be retrofitted to some vehicles. GM, Ford and Honda are already fitting systems and using downloadable apps to enable elements of V2x.
So, the technology is there however, there may be other aspects that could be barriers to the adoption and use of full V2x capabilities.
The typical industry 3-year timescale for the design, development, verification and certification of automobile systems makes the EC eCar roll-out date of October 2015 appear challenging. Having said that, the major OEMs have large elements of on-board V2x systems in place already.
Legislation and standardisation typically lag behind the development of the technical solutions so there is an element of designing ‘in the dark’. The trick is to design the hardware and software to be ‘future-proofed’ so it could be adapted to any communications standards for example. Protocols, interoperability and compatibility all need to be considered for V2x as does ISO26262 and functional safety of vehicle systems.
As V2x moves into the realms of autonomous driving, it must be made clear where the boundary is set for liability. Where and when does the liability transfer from the driver to the OEM when systems intervene and alter how the car behaves on the road?
Finally, as V2x is very much data driven, data management must be in accordance with data protection, human rights and privacy laws. OEMs and fleet operators are putting a lot of effort into the legalities of data collection and usage.
Writer: Phil Barker