Cars ‘talk’ to each other during test on E313

Summary

Technologies that allow self-driving cars to communicate with each other are being tested in Flanders, a project that will eventually expand to the busy ring road around Antwerp

Reducing road deaths

Ghent and Antwerp universities joined Leuven nanotech research centre imec for a test yesterday to see if “smart” cars could avoid accidents by communicating with each other. The test was carried out along the E313, which runs southeast from Antwerp to Hasselt and beyond.

Imec’s “Smart Highway” technology is meant to prevent chain-reaction crashes that occur, often along motorways, because cars can only see what the car in front of them is doing and not beyond that. Drivers then react too late, causing multi-car pile-ups.

The researchers outfitted two cars with technology that allowed them to communicate with each other. They then drove them down the motorway with a normal car in-between. Radio transmitters were also placed along the side of the road to communicate with the two vehicles.

When the vehicle in the front suddenly put on the brakes, this was communicated to the third car, which responded automatically. The idea is to use the data in the development of self-driving cars.

Traffic safety

“There are different technologies out there that allow cars to communicate with each other and with infrastructure placed along the motorway,” said Bart Lannoo, business development manager at imec. “Auto manufacturers have not reached a consensus about which kind of technology to use. And of course different manufacturers need to use the same technology or at least compatible services. The Smart Highway project tests these different technologies and offers a flexible platform to add the next generation of technologies, all in a real-life environment.”

Smart Highway is supported by €3.5 million from the government of Flanders and is being carried out with partners involved in the European Concorda project. The end goal of the projects is to develop self-driving technology that will drastically reduce auto accidents and motorway deaths.

“The technology being tested can improve both tailbacks and traffic safety,” said Flemish innovation minister Philippe Muyters. “That’s why we are investing in this project and also in a ‘smart highway’, a permanent test site along the E313 that will allow us to test and certify new communication, data and sensor technologies. In the next phase, we plan to expand the tests to the Antwerp ring road. This will be an important step towards integrating self-driving cars on our roads.”

Photo courtesy imec

Imec

Leuven-based imec is a world-leading nanotechnology and nanoelectronics research centre. Its main research areas are ICT, health care and energy.
Origins - Imec was established as an independent but Flemish government-backed research centre for microelectronics in 1984.
International - While its headquarters are in Leuven, imec has offices in the US, the Netherlands, Taiwan, China, India and Japan.
Clean room - Imec boasts two cleanrooms – dust-free labs to develop computer chips – and is developing a third.
36

spin-off companies

48

million euros in annual subsidy from the government of Flanders

2 000

staff members