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Lexus announces Victorian connected vehicle trial

VicRoads, TAC, Telstra, Lexus collaborate on two-year trial of connected vehicles

25 Jun 2019

LEXUS Australia has announced a partnership with VicRoads and Telstra that will see a pair of modified RX large SUVs trial a number of connected vehicle technologies on the road, with the aim of improving traffic management and reducing road trauma.


The two RX450h hybrids are fitted with about $5000 of specialised equipment that helps them communicate with each and other through cellular networks while testing five new connected safety features over a two-year collaboration.


Among the new technologies are an emergency electronic brake-light warning, which communicates between two vehicles to warn the driver when another vehicle further down the road – and potentially out of sight – is braking hard.


Alternatively, the systems can also alert drivers if a vehicle ahead is stopped at the side of the road or travelling at unusually low speeds.


Another feature pertains to speed-limit warnings, providing information on variable speed limits while also giving drivers advisory speed limits when approaching a curve while travelling at speed.


Using Telstra’s 4G cellular network, one system uses a video sensor at an intersection to alert drivers when a pedestrian or cyclist is crossing the road, which could be useful at a built-up intersection where visibility around corners is limited.


Telstra group executive network and IT manager Nikos Katinakis said the technology will be compatible with the incoming 5G cellular network, with the current 4G network requiring tweaks to be compatible with the trial.


“The technology that Telstra contributed is by tweaking the 4G network to make it faster, and priority those cars’ messages,” he said.


“However, 5G is just around the corner, and what we’re talking about with tweaking 4G, 5G has embedded in the core technology.


“So, as we go forward, 5G will enable even more technologies over everything we see today.”


The video sensor technology is also able to detect if a vehicle is likely to run a red light (if it is approaching an intersection at speed) and can therefore alert other drivers of the danger.


Using vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2X) connected technology allows cars to ‘see’ the road further than any current technologies allow, which use camera and radar-based systems fixed to the vehicle.


The trial first began at Lexus Australia’s test track in the western Melbourne suburb of Altona and will now be rolled out on roads across Victoria, in both urban and rural environments.


Along with the new technologies, the pair of RX450h variants are still equipped with the standard suite of active safety features found on production models.


The new technology is not capable of overriding the existing safety systems but could be programmed to do so if it is integrated into future production versions.


In November last year, Lexus began a similar trial in Queensland that has been progressing successfully, also over a two-year period.


Lexus Australia managing director Scott Thompson said the trial was primarily a learning exercise for the company.


“Quite simply, it’s about enhancing the safety systems that we’ve got within our car, so it’s about learning, it’s about providing information to our parent company, it’s about providing information back to VicRoads, and in any way that we can improve road safety.”


Mr Thompson added that the technology would eventually be shared across other manufacturers, with Lexus having priority access through the trial.


“How it’s applied to each individual manufacturer, that’s up to them, but the information will obviously be ours first with Telstra and VicRoads, but then I’m sure it will have far-reaching applications.


“Then I’m sure when you start to test-drive the vehicles, you’ll see that the extra couple of milliseconds you get in advance warnings will not only benefit luxury customers – anyone who drives a vehicle, there will be benefits.”

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