Small fleets of BMWs and Smarts traveling on Germany’s roads could help change the way traffic jams are managed around the world.
BMW group is running three research cars in Munich to prove that the cars’ telematics systems can be used to turn the vehicles into mobile sensors that automatically and instantly report to a traffic control center.
All the cars need is a small software upgrade.
BMW’s system is known as Extended Floating Car Data (XFCD). DaimlerChrysler’s program is called FleetNet.
“The cost of putting XFCD into cars is not significant because everything necessary is already in the car when fitted with” [satellite navigation], said Susanna Breiten-berger, BMW group research engineer and team leader for the XFCD project.
In a parallel project, the DaimlerChrysler Research Center has six Smart-brand cars on the streets of Ulm testing car-to-car communications using short-range radio.
Said D/C’s FleetNet program leader Walter Franz: “Imagine you are driving at high speed and there has just been an accident round the next bend. No problem! You apply the brakes in time because your car has warned you before you could even see the accident.”
Both projects involve Siemens VDO Automotive and are partially funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research.
The projects also will provide crucial technology to the recently formed Car2Car Communications Consortium, whose members include Audi, BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Fiat, Renault and Volkswagen.
“XFCD is connected with the Car2Car initiative, developing the information systems that could eventually become international,” Breitenberger said.
What holds back car-to-car communication is insufficient industry collaboration.
“We are talking to Daimler-Chrysler, to Ford through Volvo, and to VW through Audi,” said Breitenberger. “We have to get the others on board to get a significant number of cars on the road. There are basically no other problems. Technology is no problem.”
XFCD from BMW is not a rival to other solutions being researched by the Car2Car consortium, a Siemens VDO spokesman said, because the Siemens open platform solution does not exclude any future car-to-car communications standards.
The spokesman said the German supplier is developing a common information platform, while BMW and D/C are working on data collection and processing.
True industry collaboration will be the key to making the system a reality. For reliable incident detection and route guidance, three XFDC cars must report and verify the same emergency within 10 minutes, according to a BMW group studies. To do so on a highway system the size of Germany’s, there would need to be 1 million XFDC-equipped cars on the road.
Social impact criticism
According to the German auto club ADAC, about 5 million of the country’s 45 million cars have satellite-navigation systems, a number that is growing by 19 percent a year; this could mean that by 2015, about 2.14 million cars would be able to transmit XFCD.
With the systems proven, agreed, and launched into the market in sufficient quantities, researchers say that near-total real-time accident prevention and self-management is achievable.
Visionaries believe that through this revolutionary contribution to congestion-busting the motor industry might be able, in due course, to claim to have dealt with a major area of criticism of the social impact of its products.