During last years Japan has kind of lost track in the consumer electronics market; Korean and Chinese brands have eaten a big chunk of the market share which before was dominated worldwide by Japanese companies. On the other hand, in the automobile industry Japan has become the undisputed world leader.
In the automobile world the next revolution which has been on the works for many years is the communication between vehicles, known as V2V (vehicle to vehicle). In this revolution in which practically all the major players in the car industry are taking part, the communication protocol that will allow cars to communicate between each other will be universal.
Honda, Toyota and other Japanese electronics technology companies, like for example Denso, are playing a major role in the development of the fundamental technology and also in the first real products that are already being prepared to invade roads in the coming years.
V2V systems use already mature technologies, that is why their introduction will be relatively cheap and easy. Basically, a V2V system needs information of the location of the vehicle that can be obtained via GPS and also needs to be able to communicate with other vehicles in the surroundings. In this way, the system is able to know, for example, if the car that you are driving is going to collide in the next crossroads with another car even though you as a driver don’t have any visibility. This is an easy example, but the possibilities are infinite. Cars will be able to communicate between each other and know that the car that is two hundred meters in front is braking abruptly, or they will be able to know if in the next sharp curve there is a stopped car because something happened, or they will even be able to decide to reduce the velocity automatically in case that there is going to be an almost certain collision.
In Hokkaido roads, in the north of Japan, is where most of the V2V tests are being carried out. Honda, Toyota and Mitsubishi present their proposals, which are then accepted by the Japanese government and then they are able to test and consequently evolve the technology. The foundations of the V2V technology is the same in every car, because it is fundamental that cars of different companies can communicate between each other seamlessly, all cars have to “speak” the same language. What changes is the way in which the car notifies the driver of the possible dangers in the road. For example, Mitsubishi bets on the use of acoustic notifications, Toyota is testing driver seats that vibrate when there is an imminent collision, and Honda bets on using visual notifications integrated in rear-view mirrors.
Not only automobile companies are trying to get a piece of the cake in this new market, also the big mobile phone companies are looking on how they can play an important role. The idea is that besides the communication between vehicles, the same concept can also be used to have a communication between pedestrians and vehicles. How does it work? Basically it is the same, a pedestrian with a cellphone with GPS is crossing the street in a foggy day, a car is approaching but it is able to communicate with the pedestrian cellphone, even though the car driver can’t see the pedestrian the V2V system will warn him that he is about to run over someone. The mobile phone company that is looking more into this kind of applications is AU KDDI, which is already preparing the first cellphones that can “talk” to cars in collaboration with Honda, Subaru, Toyota and Mitsubishi.
During the last decade the GPS has changed the driving behavior of people everywhere around the world, the next decade the V2V communication will make cars more intelligent and able to communicate between each other so that our roads can be safer.
Article originally published in the Spanish newspaper El País.