Volvo testing cars which talk to one another to make winter driving safer

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Given the rather severe — and incredibly persistent — winter weather that has affected most of the United States, this announcement from Volvo sounds incredibly appealing. Anyone who ventured out on the roads during an ice storm or heavy snowfall recently will know how dangerous and precarious it can be. What’s more, even when the weather subsides and roads are treated or plowed, it can still be incredibly unsafe for drivers. Volvo aims to reduce the number of accidents and panicked moments for drivers by having its vehicles talk to one another.

As part of a pilot project, Volvo is teaming up with the Swedish Transport Administration and Norwegian Public Roads Administration to establish a cloud-based system which will inform drivers and road maintanence crews about specific areas of reduced road friction. The system is fairly simple: hit a patch of slippery road and the Volvo’s on-board computer will detect the car’s tyres struggling for grip, which will activate a warning on the dashboard and send a warning to a database in the cloud, thanks to an onboard mobile data network.

The warning is then sent to any cars in the nearby vicinity, as well as any drivers heading in the direction of the warning area. Another signal is simultaneously sent to the administrators of the stretch of road to help them better target road maintenance crews to treat the problem and avoid further incidents: be it salt the ice, clear debris, plow the road or shut it down.

“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,” said Erik Israelsson, Project Leader Cooperative ITS (Intelligent Transport System) at Volvo Cars. “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.”

“The pilot is one of the first practical examples of the way communication between vehicles over the mobile network enables vehicles to ‘speak’ to each other and with the traffic environment. This can contribute to making traffic safer,” he continued. “This is only the beginning. In the future we will have increased exchange of vital information between vehicles. There is considerable potential in this area, including safer traffic, a more comfortable drive and an improved traffic flow.”

Whether the trial in Scandinavia is a success or not, we applaud Volvo for trying to make winter driving that little bit safer for drivers. The project “will bring us closer to our safety vision that nobody should die or suffer serious injuries in a new Volvo car by the year 2020,” concludes Israelsson.

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Rhuaridh Marr is one of Metro Weekly's contributing editors and covers cars, technology, gaming and world news. He is usually found with a game controller in one hand and a smartphone in the other and can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.

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