Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology is being developed by Ford, and it could see the end of traffic lights, a reduction in congestion and reduced accident rates.

All too often, a car manufacturer makes a statement which could amount to a step toward a motoring utopia, only to then clarify that ‘this is our future goal’, or words to that effect.

Ford Motor Company have recently made such a statement – that the use of their technology could see the end of traffic lights, it may well reduce congestion, which in turn will see pollution levels diminish, and of course, a reduction in accident rates. Only this was more than a statement.

UK Autodrive

As part of the government-backed UK Autodrive programme, Ford has been demonstrating their new ‘Intersection Priority Management’ (IPM) system in Milton Keynes.

Essentially, the system allows connected cars to send and transmit data such as location, speed and the direction they’re travelling in to similarly equipped cars in the same vicinity, which then advises the driver of the optimum speed to navigate other vehicles or junctions without stopping, of course, the ultimate goal is to use this software as part of a suite of full-autonomy functions.

Ford says that it’s based on how humans negotiate crowded areas instinctively – it just happens, with no sudden stops or emergency avoidance action, and more importantly, little congestion.

Christian Ress, supervisor with the Driver Assist Technologies at the Ford Research & Advanced Engineering says: “With the connected car technology we have been demonstrating in Milton Keynes this week, Ford envisage a world where vehicles are more aware of each other and the environment they’re in, which will enable intelligent cooperation and collaboration on the road networks”.

Traffic lights

Research shows that on average, a motorist will spend two years of their life waiting at traffic lights, so any reduction in that time would not only be welcome but could be beneficial to the environment. It’s thought that reducing the time spent waiting at traffic lights would have a demonstrable effect on congestion, which in turn would, of course, help to lower city pollution levels. Maybe this could be part of the solution to end the spread of congestion charging?

Ford’s own research also says that road junctions cause up to 60% of Road Traffic Collisions (RTCs), so vehicles fitted with the Intersection Priority Management system will be inherently safer, with the software analysing the trajectory and speed of any vehicle around it.

In theory, this all sounds like an incredibly simple yet effective solution, but of course there are some flaws; for this to work as Ford intend, each and every vehicle on the road must be fitted with it, or a system that’s compatible with it, and presently, it still relies on the most unreliable link in the system – the human element.

Until vehicles are fully autonomous, there will always be an element of a driver believing that their judgement (or need) is greater than anyone else’s, or an indecisive driver that would prefer to leave a bigger gap than the computer says is necessary. It will never be able to counter the human element until it’s removed from the equation.

V2V and V2X

Vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) connectivity aren’t new, most manufacturers are working on their own proprietary versions of a system, but it won’t be arriving at a dealership anytime soon, or at least not in such an advanced state.

In all likelihood, it’s doubtful that we’ll see systems as this being commonplace for a decade or so; it’s all very well one manufacturer showing off their capability, but until there is a unified set of protocols between manufacturers, that’s all it can ever be – a showcase for a manufacturer. Certainly, there are brands that have introduced limited self-driving capabilities on their vehicles, but think of them as a DVD in a digital streaming world – the technology works well to a degree, but at a fraction of what’s needed to make it a viable reality for the world.

We shouldn’t discount driver habit or education either – we’ve been taught to drive on principles based around the human being the smartest decision maker, learning to give that control to a device or microchip simply can’t happen overnight, it will take years of trouble-free learning for that to happen as a natural progression to our driving habit.

Our world embraces technology, and it’s fascinating to see just what technologies are around the corner, but as technology changes, so must society, and perhaps that’s the hardest to change.

What do you think of this technology? Is there a better way to control traffic flow and congestion? Would you be able to let the system take control? Let us know in the comments.

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