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Safer traffic with vehicles that talk to each other

In the near future it will be possible for vehicles to communicate with each other. Kristoffer Lidström, who recently defended his doctoral dissertation on the subject at Halmstad University in Sweden, has investigated how vehicles will be able to identify dangerous traffic situations and how cooperation between vehicles equipped with wireless communication can be made more reliable.
Based on the assumption that vehicles will soon be able to communicate with each other, Kristoffer Lidström initially examined how to make use of wireless communication technology for traffic safety, comfort, and efficiency.

“Among other things, I looked at what distinguishes this type of safety system from others, such as systems based on radar,” explains Kristoffer Lidström.

In his doctoral dissertation, Kristoffer Lidström has studied how cooperation between vehicles equipped with wireless communication can be made more reliable.

The advantages of using wireless communication in traffic are numerous.
“Unlike systems based on sensors in cars, wireless communication allows you to communicate with cars that are further away or with vehicles approaching an intersection, where visibility is limited. The goal is to be able to discover dangerous traffic situations earlier and thereby avoid accidents,” says Kristoffer Lidström.

Although future vehicles may be able to communicate with each other, there are still certain problems to solve. We need to develop new methods and models to identify potentially dangerous situations, such as when communication between vehicles is not possible for some reason. This could occur when visibility is blocked when, for example, buildings, difficult terrain, or trees obstruct visibility.

“There are many situations when the vehicle is in a place where this communication does not work. If we understand the problem, we can make the best of the situation,” he says.

Support function
In his dissertation, Kristoffer Lidström presents a form of support function that discovers in advance when it will be difficult for the vehicles to communicate.

“The solution may be to store information in the vehicle regarding what places make it hard to communicate. In this way the cars help to create a picture of where it’s harder or easier to communicate with other cars,” he explains.

Kristoffer Lidström chose to do research in the field of vehicular communication for several reasons. For instance, the links to the auto industry were an important factor, but so was the fact that traffic safety is important to so many people.

“It’s a field that is easy to relate to for many people. Every year some 40,000 people die in traffic in Europe. In Sweden we are ahead of other countries when it comes to research on traffic safety, and if you want to do research, it’s good to do it where the top people are. At Halmstad University wireless communication is especially strong,” says Kristoffer Lidström.

Network on cooperative traffic
Kristoffer Lidström currently works at the Viktoria Institute in Gothenburg, doing research on transportation and cooperative systems. In his job there he is continuing work on the project CoACT (Cooperative Advanced Car Trains), which he was involved in at Halmstad University.

At Halmstad, he supervised student and research projects where wireless communication was used to develop systems in which vehicles communicated with each other so that their speed, acceleration, and braking were adapted to each other.

Kristoffer Lidström and the students working with the project came in second at the international competition Grand Cooperative Driving Challenge (GCDC), which was arranged in the Netherlands last year. Last autumn the students in the project also won first prize in the student category at the prestigious competition Swedish Embedded Award.

“I’ll be continuing to collaborate with Halmstad University, as well as with the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Linköping University, and major parts of the vehicular industry to set up a network in Sweden about cooperative traffic, which will include both research and education,” says Kristoffer Lidström.

Text and photo: LINDA LUNDELL

Footnote. Kristoffer Lidström is formally submitting his dissertation at Örebro University, but he has pursued his research work at Halmstad University and the Section for Information Science, Computing, and Electrotechnology (IDE).

Updated 2012-04-19