The primary goal for any automotive service — whether you’re a vehicle manufacturer, fleet manager, or a city planner in charge of planning transit infrastructure — is to ensure the safety and security of your drivers and passengers, as well as other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians on the road. According to the National Security Council’s Motor Vehicle Fatality Estimates 2016 report, motor vehicle fatalities in the United States have risen steadily from 35,369 deaths in 2013 to 40,200 deaths in 2016. During the first half of 2017, the National Security Council found that the fatality rate was 1% lower than the corresponding time last year, but the figures still are fairly grim when it comes to assessing the safety of American roads.
Although there is an observable correlation between the price of gasoline and the number of vehicular accidents (when gas is less expensive, there tend to be more drivers and thus a higher likelihood of accidents), there are many other factors that contribute to an increase in vehicle fatalities. Some of these factors include vehicle maintenance and safety, carelessness on behalf of the driver, and how well certain roadways are designed to guide drivers and mitigate collisions.
So, who is responsible for making our roads safer? In essence, everyone involved: OEMs, civil planners and roadway engineers, and, of course, drivers. Now, the obvious solution for a completely safe road system would be to eliminate the driver completely and only have autonomous vehicles on the road, but that vision still is at least a couple of decades away. In the meantime, vehicle manufacturers and roadway engineers can utilize IoT technology to cultivate both safer road systems and a responsible driver who is more aware of their surroundings and their vehicle.
Building Safer Roads with Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) and Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) IoT
Out of all the factors that contribute to an unsafe road, driver carelessness is possibly the hardest to control. Drivers may start driving recklessly when they’re distracted, upset, or in a rush. Regardless of the reason, driver carelessness can be mitigated when they are focused and know what to expect from the road up ahead. For instance, if there is a sharp increase in traffic over a highway, a driver may not know that they should start decelerating until it’s too late, leading to a potentially fatal collision.
Two compelling ways that IoT can help a driver maintain focus and know what to expect in a timely manner are Vehicle-to-Infrastructure and Vehicle-to-Vehicle communication. As their names suggest, V2I communication is when vehicle and the road can exchange information, and V2V communication is when a vehicle can exchange information with another vehicle. In the example mentioned above, V2I communication would enable the vehicle to analyze road conditions, while V2V capabilities would quickly determine the distance between the vehicle being driven and the idle vehicles up ahead. With this data, the vehicle could either alert the driver to decelerate or use on-board machine-to-machine (M2M) communication to decelerate itself at the appropriate speed, avoiding a dangerous or even deadly collision.
Driver alerts and semi-autonomous safety features are just the beginning when it comes to the potential of V2I and V2V communication. Because both functions would rely on a cellular network to quickly analyze and transmit data to the vehicle’s computer, a database of information ranging from driver performance to road conditions can be stored on a cloud-based platform. Whenever vehicle accidents occur, drivers and insurance companies can use any data related to the accident to determine who’s at fault, thus putting more accountability on drivers. Civil engineers can also use accident-related data to plan a better infrastructure for future drivers.