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US To Drive 3,000 Wi-Fi Linked Vehicles In Massive Crash Avoidance Trial

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  • by ewg (158266) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @03:52PM (#41072577)

    Ann Arbor is a good place to start, its drivers are too preoccupied with their dissertations to watch the road...

    • by Naatach (574111)
      And with the forward facing radar, the bastard computers can tailgate you even worse than Ann Arbor drivers!
      • by Naatach (574111)

        And with the forward facing radar, the bastard computers can tailgate you even worse than Ann Arbor drivers!

        Of course, this would render my favorite method of retaliation on a tailgater null - riding my windshield washer for about 1/2 mile.

        • by jafiwam (310805)
          I bet releasing a trunk load of mylar and foil balloons in front of one of the tailgating computer-cars would make it back off. ;)
    • by mlts (1038732) *

      I'd recommend Austin for a number of reasons:

      1: Most major roads have not been upgraded since the 1970s, with the last real traffic improvement being done in '95 (183).

      2: A ton of various driving styles, due to people coming from all backgrounds.

      3: Drunk/drugged drivers due to multiple universities in the area (UT, TSU, even A&M sometimes.)

      4: Very unforgiving roads in the city core. Run a light, and you might get hit by a train.

      5: Lots of semis that act as radio wave blockers.

      6: Lots of techies,

      • 4: Very unforgiving roads in the city core. Run a light, and you might get hit by a train.

        I like that. I say let's put railroad crossings at every intersection.

      • by cduffy (652)

        Disagree. Austin is considerably easier to drive in than several other places:

        • Unlike much of the rest of Texas, freeways have one-way frontage roads.
        • Unlike the California bay area, onramps and offramps are generally highly forgiving.
        • Unlike New Jersey, California, and several other locations, there are cultural prohibitions against tailgating. (Yes, some implants don't follow them, but a fairly substantial number of drivers do).

        I think you also underestimate the amount of new road work being done -- 183 has

      • by metamatic (202216)

        I live in Austin, and it's a hell of a lot easier driving than Boston, which has all the features you mention plus angry Massholes who will cut you off as they lean on the horn and give you the finger.

  • by psergiu (67614) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @03:57PM (#41072665)

    3000 WiFi radios emiting together on how many channels and using what bandwidth ? Even if they drop to 1Mbps and use all 11 US 802.11 2.4Ghz channels, the collisions caused by ~270 devices on the same channell will make that network unuseable.

    What about the trolls with a WiFi jammer (like a microwave over with a screwdriver jammed in the door safety switch) ? Turn-it on and watch the pile-ups.

    Or will they use all channels in the 802.11n 5Ghz spectrum ?

    • by Naatach (574111) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @04:04PM (#41072789)

      ..the collisions caused by ~270 devices on the same channell will make that network unuseable.

      With that many collisions, that would make the road pretty much unusable too.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Sponsored by: Orville Redenbacher!

      We need at least a couple drunk humans driving this circuit, preferably in 1970s-era pickups.

    • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @04:11PM (#41072895) Homepage

      Because of course the engineers building an automated network aren't aware enough to think about what the car should do if it loses connections to other cars...

      If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that the 3000 radios aren't all transmitting to each other. Rather, each one would lower its power to broadcast only to its immediate area, so other cars can avoid it. A jammer would force cars nearby to switch to backup systems, and other vehicles could increase their own transmission power to compensate for the noise.

      Also note that though the article uses the term "WiFi", these are likely not standard 802.11 devices. Rather, they are in the 5.9 GHz band [], with 75MHz bandwidth.

      • by Idbar (1034346)
        Also, nobody said they will all transmit at once... that would cause not just a massive packet crash, but likely the car crash as well if the system is not properly designed.

        But as you said, engineers probably have thought of what happens if data reliability turns to zero, but also implement some of the Ad-hoc/Mesh networking routing techniques to properly propagate sufficient data (it's not like all the 3000 vehicles will start transmitting HD video to each other, right?). To the GP, this experiment will
    • by Baloroth (2370816) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @04:24PM (#41073089)

      These aren't driverless cars. The crash-avoidance system is a supplement to help drivers avoid collision (giving them warnings of incoming cars at intersections, alerts of possible rear end collisions, stuff like that), rather than a replacement for the drivers. In other words, if the system goes down you simply don't get the benefits, which is exactly what we have now anyways.

      • Why can't we control intersections this way? Every car going through a intersection would be given a certain speed to avoid being in the intersection at the same time as another car. If we could get rid of traffic lights, stop signs and yield signs, I am sure we could increase gas mileage enough to pay for the system. I would also like to see every car being mandated that it has both a gps system and cruise control. If they were integrated with the accelerating pedal so that no car would be able to spee
        • by Baloroth (2370816)

          This is possible. You'd have to track car length (a tractor-trailer truck takes much longer to go through the stop light than a Prius, for instance) and that would prevent pedestrian crossings at stoplights, which is actually a pretty significant problem. Of course in some places you could build a bridge or tunnel for them, but that isn't feasible everywhere.

          Such system are, however, a natural progression of automated driving and would massively decrease travel times and fuel wastage (in theory, every car c

        • by zmollusc (763634)

          Why pay for a new system? Get rid of traffic lights, stop signs, yield signs and one-way streets and reap the benefits of increases economy and shorter journey times.

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          If we could get rid of traffic lights, stop signs and yield signs, I am sure we could increase gas mileage enough to pay for the system.

          The less gasoline is sold, the fewer taxes are collected. It would be good for the motorist, but bad for the city government that would be tasked with paying for it.

          I suspect that's why Springfield has twice as many traffic lights and stop signs per capita than the average city -- to reduce your gas mileage and collect more tax (sales tax is collected on gasoline and diesel

    • by bob8766 (1075053)
      In other news, Rush hour traffic is at a complete standstill on I-94 in both directions due to a "Software Glitch" with a traffic monitoring hub. The internet hactivist group "Anonymous" has claimed responsibility for the glitch.
    • Without RTFA, I'm thinking that the typical message would only need to be about 100 bytes or less, every 100 msec. so the throughput per car would only be on the order of 1KiB to 2KiB per second, even taking encryption into account. So that's 10-20 Kbps per car - quite a bit better than 100Mbps. Just guessing, of course.

      And I wouldn't be surprised if any production system would have its own set of channels that are illegal to use for anything but navigation. This wouldn't stop the jammers, but it would

    • by FunkDup (995643)

      3000 WiFi radios emiting together on how many channels and using what bandwidth ?

      Yeah, all 3000 devices will have high gain antennas and be on the same stretch of road.

  • "...caused a 3000 car pile-up today, the largest in US history..."
    • Nonsense. It will be a 14-car pileup, with the rest working perfectly. It'll give the tea drinking engineers at DOT something to ponder over (bonus points if they find a reference to "Grassy Knoll" in the core dump).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm sure there would be privacy concerns (maybe not, given that it's volunteer), but I would love to see som graphical animations of how these Wi-Fi-equipped cars interact with each other around a town. It would be interesting to see a heat map of overlap with regard to things like rush hour, sporting events, etc.

    I have to assume they'll have Wi-Fi stations set up in various spots to monitor traffic. Could replace the old pressure tubes for estimating throughput.

  • by a2wflc (705508) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @04:06PM (#41072813)

    Will they at least tell the non-volunteers that their vehicle has been modified? I hope medical scientists don't pick up this new way of increasing the size of your test group.

  • ...for the video of the resulting Blues Brothers style pile-up.

  • I sure hope the post the results on YouTube.
  • And this is how it begins. First the computers keep you from crashing your car. Then they are injected into every car.

    Then they eliminate us all.

  • Where do the spectators sit?

  • link to project page (Score:5, Informative)

    by Trepidity (597) <[gro.hsikcah] [ta] [todhsals-muiriled]> on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @04:21PM (#41073037)

    Here is the DOT project page [] on the experiment, which includes a nice FAQ, and a description of the purpose.

    This particular 3,000-vehicle experiment, fwiw, is not intended to test the crash-avoidance technology in a live trial, but rather to collect a data set. The indicators aren't going to be displayed to the drivers on a HUD or anything, but just recorded for analysis, along with vehicle position/telemetry.

  • surely... (Score:5, Funny)

    by zmollusc (763634) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @04:22PM (#41073055)

    ...they are using the wrong networking topology? Token ring is the way to go if you don't want collisions .

  • by na1led (1030470) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @04:29PM (#41073151)
    They programmed all the cars to avoid hitting each other, but forgot to tell the cars to also avoid hitting everything else.
  • Time to find a truck stop to hide at!
  • Put our safety in the hands of equipment operating in unlicensed spectrum that can be interfered with by every microwave, cordless phone, and cell phone hotspot within 200 yards.

  • In the minus column of autonomous vehicles and car trains is this: the death of the freedom of travel (sans real-time monitoring). This will rapidly become mandatory, even for current cars via a module plugged into the OBD2 port. The insurance companies want it to more efficiently deny claims (and raise rates in real time) and John Law wants it as he despises privacy above all else.

    Just like a free lunch, there ain't no such thing as a care-free autonomous car.
  • will be a crash production test. Bad ideas just never seem to die.

What is algebra, exactly? Is it one of those three-cornered things? -- J.M. Barrie