International automotive supplier Continental is constantly developing new technologies to improve the safety of vulnerable road users (VRU).
Based on Vehicle-to-X (V2X) communication, vehicles will be able to communicate with these road users. Short-range communication (e.g. WLANp) makes it possible to exchange position data in order to avoid possible collisions or significantly reduce accident severity. “Protecting vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists is one of the greatest challenges on the road to accident-free driving,” explained Dr. Bernhard Klumpp, Head of the Passive Safety & Sensorics business unit at Continental. “Short-range communication can play a decisive role here, too, and brings us one step closer to our goal of zero traffic fatalities.”
Short-range communication helps prevent accidents involving vulnerable road users
A vehicle fitted with V2X technology is able to communicate with VRUs that carry a smartphone or a special transponder. Modern vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication is based on a standard for direct ad-hoc communication (WLANp). In future, it will be possible to incorporate a smartphone into this ad-hoc communication so that they are able to communicate with vehicles using V2X. Modern smartphones are already capable of WLAN communication. With a few changes to the communication chip, smartphones can be adapted to exchange V2X messages with vehicles via WLANp.
“It is particularly important to make sure that the high standard of data security and functional reliability of V2X technology is also implemented when extended to communication with smartphones,” explained Dr. Gunnar Jürgens, Head of Development in the Passive Safety & Sensorics business unit, and Managing Director of Continental Safety Engineering GmbH in Alzenau, Germany. The position and movement predictions of the VRU are transmitted anonymously to the vehicle using V2X messages. Incoming messages are authenticated and processed within less than 0.1 seconds. The higher-level control unit in the vehicle decides whether the driver needs to be warned or if an intervention in the vehicle dynamics is necessary. As the GPS-based localization of a pedestrian is not precise enough, the focus in subsequent designs is on enhanced concepts for relative localization and movement prediction. Data fusion with data from other on-board sensors will be applied before potentially engaging the brakes. This can decisively improve object recognition and classification.
One big advantage of the communication using short-range communication, with a range of 300 to 500 meters, is the very low latency time. This is essential for exchanging safety-relevant information, such as the vehicle position, dynamics and brake operation.
VRUs account for almost 50 percent of traffic fatalities
According to Germany’s Federal Statistics Office, around 50 percent of people killed in traffic accidents are vulnerable road users such as cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians. Between 2000 and 2012, the number of fatal accidents involving car occupants fell by 50 percent. In contrast, the same statistic for vulnerable road users fell by less than 30 percent over the same period, according to the 2014 annual report of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). With V2X technology, more and more accidents can be prevented, especially those involving vulnerable road users.