Scandinavian car manufacturer Volvo is currently testing a new system that uses inter-car communications to improve road safety. It shows the potential for cloud-based car systems that could change the way the roads work.
Volvo currently has 50 of these cars on the road using mobile networks to communicate with one another. When one car spots an icy bit of road it will mark the area as dangerous in the cloud. When other vehicles that get near to that patch they will be alerted in varying levels of urgency depending on the severity.
How the car can register an area as icy isn't made clear by Volvo. Perhaps it's as simple as traction control registering the slip feedback from the tyres. The important part is the smart mapping of the roads that is automatically regulated simply by driving.
As well as notifying other cars connected to the Volvo Cars network, this system alerts those in charge of road maintenance. That way the problem can be fixed, in most cases with gritting, or monitored for potential future work like fixing a crack in the road surface.
Erik Israelsson, project leader cooperative ITS (Intelligent Transport System) at Volvo Cars says: "We have 50 test cars on the roads, and next winter the fleet will grow considerably. Our aim is to make the technology available for our customers within a few years."
He goes on: "When the road administrator has access to information from a large number of cars, the data can be used to make winter road maintenance more efficient. The information could help to improve road safety further for all road users. This could also reduce the use of salt when not needed and minimise the environmental impact."
We're excited about what this can add to future self-driving cars. With a wider awareness of the state of roads, an autonomous car will be far safer, able to brake in advance of a problem. The cloud network also paves the way for a more intelligent traffic management system, which is being done in a similar way by Inrix right now. The more the merrier we say.