The dilemma of “swarm intelligence”

No more traffic jams, no more accidents, and always best informed about the traffic situation – that’s the promise of car-2-car communications. Although a number of effective connected car systems from various manufacturers are already in existence today, for real car-2-car communications it is absolutely essential to use swarm intelligence.

Car2Car“Darling, we’ve got to talk!” This and similar sentences in everyday interpersonal communications point to the fact that a problem or a danger already exists. Unfortunately, however, it’s often already too late for the situation to be resolved.

The same thing happens with car-2-car communications. The vehicles communicate with one another to bring potential problems to light. Here, however, there is one major difference: the objective is to avoid the problem before it even exists.

What are the opportunities with car-2-car communications?

Every vehicle receives as much information as possible from every other vehicle. This includes route characteristics, traffic conditions and also information on the weather. With the aid of this transmitted information, the car can react to the current traffic situation. In this scenario, the more cars there are the greater the information density and the more reliable and better the information is (swarm intelligence).

An even better information exchange takes place when the vehicles also communicate with the infrastructure such as traffic lights (car-2-X communication). The lights are then aware of the entire traffic situation. Due to large numbers of vehicles supplying information, it is, in all probability, possible to say what the traffic situation will be like minutes later. The traffic light phase can then be adapted to the traffic. In addition to this, the number of available traffic lanes could also be regulated accordingly. An example of this is a lighting system above a multi-lane highway. For instance, a 4-lane road with originally two lanes for each direction would allow three lanes for the congested direction and one for the other. Thus improving the flow of traffic and avoiding traffic jams.

What problem do car manufacturers have?

The original idea was that all vehicles, regardless of make, should be able to communicate with one another. However, at the moment manufacturers are relying on their own technical solutions (sometimes at extra cost) to offer this service (Car-2 manufacturers). Two problems result: on the one side there is little data because only telematic solutions from the same manufacturer can communicate with each other, thus cancelling out the swarm intelligence effect. On the other, the telematic solutions are able to make recommendations but cannot replace the direct communication and coordination among road users.

How can we deal with this problem?

Congestion avoidance systems (e.g. TMCPro), attempt to avoid this problem by evaluating the motion profiles of mobile phones and, as a result, determine the flow of traffic. With this system however, real-time congestion avoidance is not possible – often the contrary in fact because if too many road users receive the same detour recommendation, a new traffic jam can be the initial result. And due to the missing swarm intelligence the flow of traffic is much more difficult to predict.

What next?

As soon as autonomous driving, an idea that Google and other established manufacturers such as Daimler are working on, gains even more momentum, the industry will realise that it will not be able to manage without the advantages of direct car-2-car and car-2-X communications. If a car is to drive itself through complex city traffic situations it will need as much information as there is available.

In order for this to function, a technical standard on car-2-X communications must be enforced.

image by CAR 2 CAR Communication Consortium

Bahar Bakhtiary
Marketing & Communications at PRETTL Automotive
Marketing & Communications PRETTL Automotive

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