Intelligent cars are set for demonstration in Frankfurt

Intelligent cars that can alert their drivers — and each other — to hazards are about to be demonstrated in Frankfurt as part of a research project.

The 120 vehicle test fleet, set for trials in Spring 2012, are part of the Safe and Intelligent Mobility Test Field Germany (simTD) project that will see cars communicate wirelessly with each other and with sensors in the road infrastructure via ‘car-to-X communication’.

The fleet — made up of Audi A4, BMW X1, Mercedes C-class, Ford S-max, Opel Insignia and VW Passat passenger cars — will be able to transmit information on traffic conditions to a control station, which can then predict and manage traffic developments.

Christian Weiß, simTD project coordinator, told The Engineer: ‘The project uses the ITS G5 wireless technology, which is tailored to automotive applications. It is based on the familiar WLAN standard and uses ad hoc networking to enable short-range communication between vehicles and infrastructure.’

A display provides drivers with recommendations on the best route to take, as a satellite navigation system would. The system is also reported to be able to assist drivers at intersections or traffic lights by providing a display of the right lane to take for the next turn, or the optimum speed to drive to get a ‘wave of green traffic lights’.

The system also has the ability to alert drivers to imminent hazards. For example, the system is claimed to have the ability to inform the driver of what lane approaching rescue vehicles are occupying. Similarly, the system will inform the driver which lane to avoid if spilt items lie in the road.

Weiß said for most applications of car-to-x communication the messages are comparatively small, but they have to be delivered very fast. He revealed: ‘The goal is a complete transaction time in the order of 100ms-1.’

Scientists from TU München are managing the field test and will be analysing the huge amounts of data produced. Together with researchers from Wurzburg University, they are also running the simTD simulation laboratory, where traffic engineers are simulating what impact the introduction of the technology would have on all traffic in the test area, if a certain proportion of cars were fitted with this technology.

The project aims to find out how drivers will adapt to the technology and establish how successful it is on highways, rural and urban roads in and around the north of Frankfurt am Main over several months.

The €71m (£62m) project is backed by a number of public and private funding, including the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development providing funding for simTD.