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1 BMW Talking Cars of the Future on Mon Sep 13, 2010 10:11 am



Intelligent Cars Exchanging Information by Themselves
Enhanced vehicle data recognising traffic conditions and possible hazards. Local hazard warnings provided by direct vehicle-to-vehicle communication. Efficient communication network not requiring any infrastructure. Just imagine what it would be like to have a car able to “talk” to other cars around you! What would those cars have to tell each other? The BMW Group is working on autonomous, self-organising communication networks – so-called ad-hoc networks – connecting cars with each other. In this process cars collect local data from their immediate surroundings, process this information and exchange it with other cars.
Fast and efficient Local hazard warnings for extra safety Real-time hazard warnings are one possible application of such an ad-hoc communication network. Such a warning only makes sense if it reaches the appropriate addressee in good time – and precisely this is the case with extremely flexible and fast ad-hoc networks using wireless LAN (WLAN) transmission technology: Should a vehicle, say, start to swerve out of control in a bend due to oil on the road or black ice, it will immediately send an appropriate warning to all other road users in the vicinity currently approaching this bend. Similarly, a vehicle can send out a warning to other cars in foggy weather before they run into a fogbank themselves.

An intelligent computer system decides whether and when a car is to transmit a hazard warning to another vehicle. With a modern car holding a wide range of data over and above its road speed and local coordinates – information from the low- and high-beam headlights, from the foglamps or brake lights, as well as data from the ABS anti-lock brake system, DSC Dynamic Stability Control, the windscreen wipers, or the external thermometer – the computer is able to gather and collect such Extended Floating Car Data (XFCD), turning the car into a virtual sensor “floating” along in the traffic. This data may then be used to determine traffic, driving, and weather conditions. A suitably programmed algorithm is subsequently able within fractions of a second to “sense” the current situation of the car, reliably monitoring weather conditions, the flow of traffic, road conditions and the car’s surroundings – for example whether the road is slippery, whether there is fog, whether conditions are wet, or whether there is a traffic jam ending in a bend up front.
A concrete scenario: Activation of ABS and DSC at a low road speed and with the brake pedal pressed down only slightly, in conjunction with a low outside temperature, may be indicative of black ice in the area and the risk of the car skidding. BMW Group research vehicles are already equipped with this technology and, as a function of the data provided, transmit a hazard warning wherever appropriate by WLAN to other test vehicles. The vision of BMW Group engineers is to set up a comprehensive network of cars able to communicate independently with one another, each vehicle – depending on the situation – serving as a transmitter, receiver, or router.
Fast and ensuring full coverage: Dynamic navigation with real-time information Ad-hoc networks enhance the benefits of dynamic navigation systems, for example by transmitting information on obstacles suddenly looming up ahead as well as road incidents very quickly to all vehicles approaching the crucial spot. In a similar way a car leaving a parking space at the side of the road may pass on a signal to drivers in the vicinity looking for a place to park. The main advantage of such ad-hoc networks is however is the full and complete coverage of traffic information optimising the flow of traffic not only on the motorway and main routes, but also on secondary roads and all around town.
In addition, ad-hoc networks provide the basis for an entirely new service one might possibly call a “follow-me function” when driving in a convoy, with individual vehicles informing each other of their current position and route. On his or her navigation screen, the driver sees not only his own position, but also that of other vehicles in the convoy, vehicles following from behind therefore conveniently and safely keeping on the route of the vehicle ahead.
Digital mobile communication providing a quantum leap in technology Digital wireless communication in ad-hoc networks ensures a significant leap in technology: for more than 100 years the exchange of information among road users has been limited to simple optical and acoustic signals using direction indicators, hazard warning flashers or the horn of a car. Clearly, the precision and scope of such information is inadequate in many situations, with even cellular networks such as GSM or radio-based information not providing a suitable remedy, since such cellular networks are both relatively expensive and limited in their capacity to transmit data to several users.
Radio-based broadcasting networks, in turn, are not the appropriate method for transmitting individual data and information. Ad-hoc communication networks based on wireless LAN technology for the first time provide the possibility to “release” the driver from his isolation, providing all the information required at the right time and in the right form. The advantages of such an ad-hoc network are obvious, since the multi-hopping process gives them a virtually unlimited range and they do not require any infrastructure, the car itself serving not only as the sender and receiver, but also as the router. A further important point is that mobile users of such a network are able to take their own well-considered decisions on the basis of appropriate, dynamic information generated and made available in real time.
Networking the driver, the car and the surroundings: The philosophy of BMW ConnectedDrive BMW is studying and developing the introduction of ad-hoc networks as part of the Group’s ConnectedDrive Project: ConnectedDrive seeks to intelligently network the driver with his car and the surroundings, thus making road traffic safer, more efficient, and more comfortable. To be specific, this means the ongoing development of future telematics and online services as well as driver assistance systems.

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