Smartphones, ADAS and the connected car
Forget expensive pedestrian avoidance systems using embedded cameras and radars.
A new system being developed by General Motors explores how pedestrians’ smartphones could be used to alert drivers to potential collisions. And the broader automotive community is taking note.
Automakers like Volvo and Toyota have unveiled pedestrian detection in the last few years, but those systems are based on refinements to in-car accident avoidance systems, such as vehicle-embedded cameras and radars.
In GM’s case, an app on a pedestrian’s smartphone transmits location information via Wi-Fi Direct, a peer-to-peer wireless standard that allows devices to connect directly without a remote access point, much like Bluetooth.
Wi-Fi chipsets in nearby vehicles receive the signal, and onboard notifications—a flashing directional arrow on a console display, in one GM demonstration—alert the driver to the presence of pedestrians or bikers in the area.
“So many people carry cell phones today,” says Don Grimm, senior researcher at General Motors, “and Wi-Fi Direct doesn’t require a hardware change. Pretty much any Wi-Fi chipset that’s out there today, if the vendor provides a driver for it, can operate as a Wi-Fi Direct device.”
Lower entry to ADAS
Deployment of the system is still about four years out, but already major car manufacturers like GM are getting serious about using smartphone technology to augment existing safety features on vehicles and to lower the barriers to entry of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) for consumers.
Smartphones may soon play integral roles in getting vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) systems off the ground as well, analysts say.
One reason is that automakers see huge cost advantages to leveraging the ubiquity of smartphones to bring the latest technology into vehicles. That’s the logic driving Ford’s Sync App Link, Mercedes-Benz’s DriveStyle app and BMW’s ConnectedDrive, tools that put the smartphone in the technological driver’s seat.
“I think some of the promise with wireless communication is the opportunity to bring some of these safety features to volume vehicles,” Grimm says. “We can bring the safety systems of our Cadillac cars to our Chevy fleet.”
Roger Lanctot, associate director in the global automotive practice at Strategy Analytics, sees potential in Grimm’s goal.
“The idea of enabling an enhanced safety experience in a car by virtue of enabling communication between a driver’s mobile device and the roadside or other cars is a compelling and proven proposition,” he says. “It’s proven for tolling and proven for traffic, and there are existing solutions. It’s early days, but I think the technology exists to enhance safe and efficient driving using mobile-device connectivity.”
What about DSRC?
GM is currently considering ways that smartphones can complement dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) technology to create feature rich V2V and V2I systems.