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Audi's car-to-x factor

Road warrior: Audi is gathering data on driving characteristics and driver behavior to push its research into autonomous driving and connected vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure technology.

Research ante upped as Audi accelerates towards autonomous driving

5 Sep 2016

AUDI AG has gathered 630,000km and six billion points of data from the driving habits of 70 German employees to investigate data sharing and connectivity as part of the next step on the road to an autonomous driving future.

Dubbed by the brand as a “car-to-x test car fleet”, the employees drove their vehicles normally for one year while 850 signals from each car communicated at a rate of 500 messages per second to a data “cloud” centre.

The primary aim was to learn driver profiles and better calibrate driver assistance systems – and further down the track, autonomous driving hardware and software – but also allow Audi to test how to handle the vast data streaming required by inter-connected autonomous cars.

Audi said the field test gathered data on how hard drivers accelerated on different GPS-coordinated roads, what speed they used, what radio stations were used and which driver assistance systems were employed.

While the data is “awaiting analysis” the brand already claimed acceleration rates were in the “pleasant” order of around 2.6 metres per second squared – indicating that most drivers do not harshly accelerate often.

Audi’s current car-to-x services, handled by a SIM card and 4G phone network, includes traffic information, traffic sign readouts and hazard warnings, while from late 2016 in the US, a traffic light monitoring system will be added to some models as part of a vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) connectivity.

In select US cities, Audi’s data centre will be given traffic light timing data, and when vehicles equipped with Audi Connect services enter a particular part of the city, information on how long the traffic light will take to go green will be relayed onto the central display beside speed limit and other navigation functions.

Eventually, Audi believes the communication would extend to vehicles entering and departing parking spaces in cities, allowing the system to notify other nearby connected drivers via the navigation system that a free space is emerging.

The latest data-gathering project was an extension from an earlier trial on Germany’s A9 autobahn outside Ingolstadt and Munich, when Audi teamed up with BMW and Toyota to monitor an 11km stretch of highway cloaked with four LTE-V (Long Term Evolution-Vehicular) base stations.

The aim of the German government-backed trial was to see how different manufacturers could share data between themselves, in conjunction with wireless technology brand Huawei and 5G LTE provider Deutsche Telekom, the results of which “are currently being analysed”.

Audi, BMW and Daimler also last year jointly acquired the HERE maps database from Nokia Corporation and it was claimed 80 per cent of European and US vehicles with satellite navigation use the system that will become integral to shared data and communication between thousands of vehicles.

Audi also said that ultra-fast LTE-V connections – 300MB per second for download and 50MB per second for upload – is now three times faster than previous technology and is critical for achieving functions such as “platooning” where autonomous vehicles travel in close freeway formation to aid traffic flow.

“The vehicles in the convoy can use LTE-V to continuously adjust the ideal gap between them so that they can drive very efficiently while also helping to prevent accidents,” Audi added in a statement.

More imminently, functions could include a fire truck notifying the cloud base of its approach to then alert and move freeway drivers ahead of its arrival beside the connected vehicle.

Some of the tested functions are expected to debut with the next-generation Audi A8 expected to debut at the Geneva motor show in March next year.

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