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Australian-developed vehicle accident prevention technology to hit world stage

Adam Bender | Feb. 13, 2013
Cohda Wireless CEO Paul Gray estimates that by 2017, Australian cars may be able to communicate


The US Department of Transportation is currently running a trial of car-to-car communications in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with 2800 vehicles, of which 1500 have the Cohda technology, said Gray. The US also has a program to encourage sale of after-market devices for cars already on the road, and that technology is also being tested in the Ann Arbor trial, Gray said.

This August, the US plans to follow its Ann Arbor pilot with a rulemaking that could result in either a mandate or a requirement that car-to-car communications technology be included in new cars to earn a five-star crash rating, he said.

In Europe, a recent ¬54 million trial by the German government involved all the top German car makers, he said. Last October, a consortium of 12 European carmakers signed a memorandum of understanding in which the companies committed to start deploying the technology in 2015.

A smaller trial in Australia involved putting technology into trains to improve safety at rail crossings, Gray said.

Car safety tech

In most regions, the wireless technology inside Cohda's systems is based around the 802.11p IEEE standard, a variation of the WiFi standard modified for low-latency, peer-to-peer communications. Cohda's system also uses GPS for lane-level accuracy pinpointing the vehicle's position.

"One of the reasons for basing the technology on WiFi is to get low-cost devices," Gray said.

On an open highway, cars can communicate in up to a 1km range in any direction, he said. In a dense city environment where buildings obscure view of other cars, the range is about 100 metres, he said.

Because GPS signals can be lost inside a tunnel or under an overpass, the system uses map matching and other techniques to maintain correct vehicle positioning, he said.

Cohda's system is compatible with similar equipment built by other companies. "We build a standards-compliant system that is 100 per cent interoperable with other systems," Gray said.

Cohda has recently signed major partnerships from Cisco and NXP Semiconductor. NXP will provide the silicon chips on which Cohda's software will run. Cisco, a "new-market entrant" in the automotive space, will provide networking equipment, he said.

A driverless future?

The first generation of the technology will provide warnings only. However, in the future the technology could be used for driver assistance--such as automatic emergency breaking--or even driverless cars, Gray said.

A future version of the system "could take control of the vehicle to try and avoid the accident altogether," he said.

Google, which is testing driverless cars in California, does not use the Cohda system but may be a potential customer in the future, Gray said.

"Those driverless cars are all using sensors to steer," Gray said. "This is really just another sensor to bring into the mix, but quite a powerful sensor because all the other sensors they have in the systems are all line-of-sight."


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