Audi, Qualcomm to Test Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything Technology to Help Protect Bicyclists Sharing the Road
Riding a bike on a busy road shared with cars could be a harrowing experience for some riders. To make matters worse, distracted driving caused by cell phone usage is making it less safe for bicyclists that are sharing the road with vehicles.
But a new collaboration between Qualcomm, intelligent transportation systems developer Commsignia and automaker Audi aims to protect vulnerable road users, such as cyclists, using cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) communications technology.
Audi of America today announced this week that its working with Spoke, a company that developed a smartphone app that offers a safe and connected biking experience, to alert drivers using C-V2X technology when cyclists are nearby.
The four companies are exploring use cases to make Audi vehicles aware of bicyclists, as well as other road users. It includes sending safety alerts to the instrument cluster of the Audi vehicles to alert drivers.
The goal of the project is to prevent accidents involving cyclists and help make the roads safer for all users.
C-V2X is a direct communication technology that offers low latency communications for vehicles. The short-range communications technology includes Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V), Vehicle-to-Roadside Infrastructure (V2I) and Vehicle-to-Pedestrian (V2P) communication without needing a cellular network or service plan.
The C-V2X demonstrations will validate Spoke's hardware and software suite, which is designed to be the industry's first connected system to offer direct communication for contextual awareness and alerts between drivers and cyclists.
Audi is also continuing to refine its C-V2X technologies for production-intent applications in future vehicles, allowing for a truly connected ecosystem between drivers and other road users.
For the project, Audi is developing hardware and software for its Audi e-tron Sportback test vehicle that will use both direct vehicle-to-bicycle communication using short range signals that do not rely on a cellular network and LTE signals that use cellular towers to identify bicycles on the road.
Vehicles will be able to read their surroundings to identify when bicycles are nearby, interfacing with Spoke Safety's connected suite. It can even identify bicycles that may be obstructed from a driver's view.
Spoke's app-based safety platform for bicyclists uses direct digital communication connecting all nearby road users anonymously to each other up to 10 times per second. If a vehicle is approaching a bicyclist, both the cyclist and driver receive notifications of each others' presence. The Audi vehicles received the prompt on the instrument cluster.
The U.S. Congress passed the "Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act" in Nov 2021, which offers significant funding opportunities for projects like this that are incorporating connected vehicle technologies, including C-V2X, V2V, V2X communications.
The legislation also allocates funds for a two-year research study led by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Highway Administration to "expand vehicle-to-pedestrian research efforts focused on incorporating bicyclists and other vulnerable road users into the safe deployment of connected vehicle systems."
C-V2X communications operate on the designated 5.9 GHz Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) spectrum that's been allocated by the FCC specifically for connected vehicle technologies and advanced driver assist systems (ADAS).
Audi estimates there will be 5.3 million vehicles, work zones, railway crossings, bicycles, and other devices that will be able to connect to each other using C-V2X by 2023.
By 2028, that number could potentially increase to 61 million connected devices, including as many as 20,000 crosswalks, 60,000 school zones, 216,000 school buses, and 45 million smartphones.
C-V2X communcations technology can alert both the driver and cyclist to each others' presence up to 10 times per second.
The first public demonstrations of the Spoke connected bicycle technology with the Audi e-tron Sportback will be March 21-23 at the PeopleForBikes Bicycle Leadership Conference in Dana Point, California, followed by the Sea Otter Classic cycling festival in Monterey, California, April 7-10.
Audi has worked with Qualcomm in the past on similar connected vehicle projects.
In Sept 2020, a new C-V2X pilot project began in Virginia in collaboration with Audi, Qualcomm, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and wireless infrastructure operator American Tower Corporation using C-V2X communications to protect road maintenance workers.
For the pilot in Virginia, road workers wore special vests with built-in Vehicle to Pedestrian (V2P) communications technology to alert drivers to their presence. The deployment was aimed toward improving road safety in work and construction zones in order to reduce the number of road hazards and fatalities.
Qualcomm also participated in a similar pilot in Hawaii in Aug 2020 with Applied Information, Inc. to bring C-V2X technology to the island. For the pilot, the C-V2X technology was integrated into 34 traffic signals along the high-traffic Nimitz Corridor in Honolulu.
It allowed drivers, pedestrians and the infrastructure to connect to each other using the free Applied Information "TravelSafely" smartphone app. The app connects drivers to infrastructure using data from multiple sources, But it also connects other road users using the app, so everyone using the app is notified of each others' presence.
Audi also participated in a C-V2X deployment in Georgia in May 2021 with partners, Qualcomm, Applied Information, Commsignia, bus manufacturer Blue Bird, Fulton Co. School System, the City of Alpharetta. It was designed to alert drivers to nearby school buses and lay the groundwork for integrating the communications technology into future Audi vehicles.
The C- V2X technology was used to alert drivers when they're entering an active school zone or approaching a school bus to reduce risks for children and other vulnerable road users. For the tests in Georgia, the warnings were sent right to the Audi vehicle's dashboard in real time over a cellular network.
C-V2X communications is also suitable for future autonomous vehicles for navigation, connecting with nearby vehicles in order to share real-time information on road conditions.
Audi already offers its "Traffic Light Information" service in some cities, which allows Audi vehicles to communicate directly with traffic signals, letting drivers know precisely when the light will change. It launched in the German city of Dieseldorf in Feb 2020.
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