Connecting cars: wireless sensing technologies to make driving safer

By Soumaya Cherkaoui   

Industry Innovation & Technology Automotive Manufacturing AUTO21 Automotive research Innovation manufacturing Safety

AUTO21 researchers are working on enhancing the reliability of V2V and V2I communications to prevent accidents.

Soumaya Cherkaoui is researching enhanced V2V and V21 communications. PHOTO: AUTO21

Soumaya Cherkaoui is researching enhanced V2V and V21 communications.

The US Department of Transportation (USDOT) estimates 90% of crashes are caused by human error and driver distraction is a key. These statistics are fuelling innovations that incorporate new sophisticated active safety applications to prevent accidents involving drivers and passengers, as well as cyclists and pedestrians who share the road.

AUTO21, the national automotive research initiative involving Canadian universities, is leveraging communication and perception technologies to detect when an accident is imminent and avoid it.

But first, some background.

The design of new safety applications is changing with the inclusion of communications capabilities. Wireless vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications will feed information to and from other vehicles and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications will be used to exchange information with transportation infrastructure. These types of communication extend a car’s perception of the environment beyond the capabilities of its embedded sensors. For instance, cars will warn drivers if there’s a chance of a collision with an oncoming vehicle, even if it can’t be directly detected.


Vehicles communicating with each other and with roadside sensors, traffic signals and remote data centres will smooth traffic flow and make it safer. Cars will have the ability to change a traffic light to green if it’s safe to do so. In fact, traffic lights could be eliminated if cars coordinate their manoeuvres through V2V and V2I.

Communication devices are embedded in some new vehicles, but the USDOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced last February that it’s working on legislation requiring mandatory wireless capability in all vehicles. Since the Canadian and US automotive markets are strongly linked, US legislation would greatly affect Canada.

AUTO21 researchers are particularly interested in enhancing V2V and V2I communications where vehicle density is high. More vehicles in an area makes communication difficult because data is sent by each one at least 10 times a second. This data might collide in the communication channel, so vehicles may not get the information in time.

AUTO21’s researchers are developing intelligent telecommunication and information processing tools that use V2V communication to improve the reliability of safety applications. Multiple positioning devices and many sensors are used to collect data and monitor vehicle performance and environmental sensing. By sharing individual data pieces and exploiting redundancies, vehicles validate and enhance the precision of their readings to optimize the reliability and robustness of safety applications. When a vehicle reacts in a timely manner because it has precise information, a potentially fatal situation is avoided.

Overcoming defaults
The AUTO21 team has had recent success overcoming situations leading to sensor defaults. For example, signals can be lost when a vehicle enters a tunnel or is in the vicinity of tall buildings. Researchers refined and combined mathematical, signal processing and analytic tools to achieve a high level of position accuracy even in the presence of faulty situations. This technology determines if a failure is minor (when a GPS signal is temporary lost) or if the failure is major (when a sensor is broken and its information can no longer be trusted).

The kind of technology AUTO21 researchers are developing will take at least five years before it’s readily available, but some advancements can be integrated into embedded systems now. For example, a few adaptations of V2V standards would enhance information delivery rates among vehicles, especially in highly dense road areas.

The AUTO21 research team is working with several industry partners, aiming to embed technology in the next systems to be integrated into cars.

Soumaya Cherkaoui, a professor at the Université de Sherbrooke in Sherbrooke, Que., leads the Multi-Vehicle Communication and Perception for Safety project at AUTO21, a national research initiative supported by the Government of Canada through the Networks of Centres of Excellence Secretariat. Visit

This article appears in the Jan./Feb. 2015 issue of PLANT.


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