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Volvo Cars to Communicate Road Condition Data to Transport Authorities

March 20, 2014

Swedish automaker Volvo has been an advocate of driver safety for many years and has made a name for itself with regards to innovative technologies that make vehicles and roads safer for motorists and pedestrians alike. Now, the car manufacturer is pushing the envelope once again with its latest project. With the help of a cloud platform, it will make cars that can communicate road condition data to other vehicles and transport authorities.

Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication, which allows automobiles to relay safety information to other automobiles in the immediate vicinity is already being developed by automakers and governments. Volvo takes this concept further with its latest pilot project, wherein its vehicles will specifically communicate road condition information not only to other vehicles in the area but also road maintenance authorities.

“The pilot is one of the first practical examples of the way communication between vehicles over the mobile network enables vehicles to ‘speak’ to each other and with the traffic environment,” Erik Israelsson, Project Leader Cooperative ITS (Intelligent Transport System) at Volvo Cars, said.

The cars will be equipped with wheel-slip sensors to aggregate road friction data and a data transceiver to read the data, which will be shared with other individual vehicles as well as transport authorities within a cloud-based system. For instance, if a car drives over a slippery section of the road, it can alert other vehicles nearby and help the authorities execute the appropriate road maintenance.

When the car identifies an icy or slippery part of the road, a warning will alert the driver. The alert level will be adjusted based on the driver’s speed. The information will also be passed on to the road administrator so that they can address the road condition. Upon the receipt of the data, the road administrator can immediately send a crew to do the necessary maintenance work.

The vehicles will communicate data over cell towers, sending important information to the Volvo data center first. The data center will then send a warning to the vehicles found in the immediate vicinity.

Volvo’s pilot program will be initiated with the help of the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket) and the Norwegian Public Roads Administration (Statens Vegvesen). The automaker announced that the project will start with 50 test cars and that the number would eventually increase for next winter.

“Our aim is to make the technology available for our customers within a few years,” Israelsson declared.

In the past, the Swedish carmaker’s connectivity platform was mainly used for its infotainment systems. It has previously partnered with Ericsson and signed agreements with service providers such as Pandora and Spotify to provide the best in in-car connectivity and entertainment. Now, it is using the platform to improve driving and road maintenance services.

Volvo’s V2V communication approach is different from other automakers, which utilize Dedicated Short Range Communications to share information to other cars nearby. In the case of Ford, which debuted its V2V communication system on a Taurus at the Consumer Electronics Show 2014, its car shares its current GPS location along with its speed and path as it receives information from the other vehicles.

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