Smart cars that can talk to the road network to optimise traffic light sequences and ease congestion will be in production by 2020.
The first trials for the long-talked-about technology, called vehicle to everything (V2X), took place in the Chinese city of Wuxi in 2017. This hooked up the city’s traffic light network to cars to help ease traffic flow, allowing the lights to adjust accordingly to the greatest number of cars wishing to travel in a particular direction.
The project is being extended this year on a much larger scale in the city to optimise traffic, moving beyond just traffic lights and rerouting cars through navigation systems and smart traffic signs depending on volumes of traffic.
As an example of how drivers might interact with the technology, they would see a countdown appear on their infotainment screen or head-up display telling them how long is left until the lights go red or green and allowing them to adjust their speed accordingly.
The technology in its production application is destined for China first in 2020 to coincide with a commercial roll-out of a super-fast 5G mobile network to support it, but it is hoped a global standard will be created and approved to allow the smart technology to be seamlessly rolled out.
New roads in most major Chinese provinces must now be built with the required hardware and infrastructure for the V2X technology to operate.
Audi is partnering with Chinese tech giant Huawei, the world’s third-largest smartphone maker, to lead development of the technology and the Wuxi trial. In 2016, the two companies set up the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA) to help ensure all car makers and tech firms developed the V2X technology to the same standards.
Other major car makers such as Ford, BMW and Daimler are on the board of 5GAA, as well as technology companies Intel and Vodafone, all with the goal in ensuring the technology is developed globally to the same standards.
Even if the technology is developed to the same standards globally, it still needs governments to back and legislate its introduction and install the required hardware. This is a much greater challenge than the development of the technology itself, and which is why it’ll come to China, and its speedier ability to deliver huge new infrastructure projects, first.