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Mercedes smartphone app to help cars warn each other of hazards

Mercedes smartphone app to help cars warn each other of hazards
Tristan Honeywill

Mercedes plans to launch a smartphone app later this year that will enable cars to talk to each other, alerting drivers to hazards and communicating with the road infrastructure.The announcement came after German car makers completed field trials of similar technologies. The experiment in safe, intelligent mobility has proven the feasibility of the technology, called “car-to-x communication” for everyday use.

Mercedes_car_to_x_communication_traffic_warningCar-to-x communication links vehicles and infrastructure in an electronic network. This allows drivers to be alerted to hazards earlier. It could be a stationary vehicle blocking the road ahead, flooding or fog. The system warns the driver or suggests a change to the route to avoid delays, making journeys safer and more fuel-efficient.

Project coordinator Dr Christian Weiss of Mercedes-Benz said: “This was one of the most extensive field tests worldwide to date and it has shown that the exchange of information between vehicles, as well as between vehicles and traffic infrastructure, can make a significant contribution to safety, comfort and efficiency in traffic.”


How big was the trial?

Audi, BMW; Mercedes-Benz, Ford, Opel and Volkswagen were all involved, with Bosch and Continental among the technology partners. The test fleet comprised 120 vehicles and three motorcycles all equipped with the same technology. Over the course of the test, the vehicles clocked up more than a million miles and the engineers and scientists involved proved the system was viable.


How do the cars communicate?

The cars in the trial mainly used wireless LAN radio technology. Information about delays or road conditions are transmitted and received anonymously by cars. Mobile phone technologies were also tested – and will be used to make the technology’s introduction faster.



What kind of safety warnings were tested?

A number of warning functions were tested. One of the most effective was one that provided advanced warning of traffic slowing ahead. Another warned of other traffic approaching at junctions, another beamed information from road signs into the car.


How soon can people buy cars with this technology?

Mercedes -Benz says it plans to begin introduction by the end of this year. Chief Technology Officer Dr Thomas Weber said: “We have a base technology that’s ready for the market. We’re able to obtain an extremely precise picture of the vehicle’s surroundings. This also helps us with the further development of our autonomous driving functions.”

Initially, this will be as part of Drive Kit Plus, which Mercedes-Benz intends to fit in all new cars. The company is promising to make it available as a retro-fit option as well. The current Drive Kit Plus only works on the iPhone 4 and 4S – iPhone 5 compatibility is expected around the end of the year.

This Kit and a smartphone with the appropriate app will allow Mercedes vehicles to transmit and receive information simultaneously from the Cloud. This should be the quickest way to deploy the technology. Could this be the first use of a smartphone in a car that improves safety?

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