Panasonic Collaborates with CDOT to Pilot Vehicle Communication Protocols on I-70

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【Summary】Panasonic, a leading electronics manufacturing company based in Japan, is the latest business to launch a driverless car program. In collaboration with Colorado’s Department of Transportation (CDOT), the duo will test new communication processes for next-generation vehicles.

Original   Michael Cheng  ·  Jan 10, 2017 6:33 AM WST
author: Michael Cheng   

Not all major players in the self-driving car sector are automakers. Panasonic, a leading electronics manufacturing company based in Japan, is the latest business to launch a driverless car program. In collaboration with Colorado's Department of Transportation (CDOT), the duo will test new communication processes for next-generation vehicles. This includes vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) protocols.

Contrary to popular belief, Panasonic isn't interested in developing its own self-driving car. The Japanese tech giant specializes in infotainment systems for cars, which allows users to connect to the internet via integration services and features. It is going up against Blackberry's QNX platform, currently being used by numerous car manufacturers, including BMW, Audi, Land Rover, GM and Mercedes-Benz.

"In Japan, Panasonic has been a trailblazer in developing connected transportation systems and smart automobile technology," said Tom Gebhardt, president of Panasonic Automotive Systems Company of America. "We're bringing some of those technologies to Colorado and working with the state to make transportation smarter, safer."

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Making Interstate 70 Safer 

The team will conduct testing on a 90-mile strip on Interstate-70 (I-70). The treacherous road is highly prone to bad weather and congested traffic. To reduce the risks of driving on I-70, Panasonic and CDOT aims to leverage Dedicated Short Range Communications to facilitate communication between cars and traffic lights or other smart objects on the road. The protocol manages data in real-time and may also be used to send timely information to moving vessels. This type of data could provide early warning notifications related to icy roads, obstructions and car accidents.

Boosting safety is the main objective of the pilot program. According to the Denver Post, road fatalities increased by 10 percent in the past two years. Furthermore, the media company clarified that 90 percent of such accidents could be prevented using V2V or V2I platforms. To help address such issues, the local transportation authority launched the RoadX program.

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Local CDOT Driverless Car Projects 

CDOT is heavily invested in developing smart systems and infrastructure for state residents. In addition to the I-70 project with Panasonic, the group also partnered with a myriad of other businesses and establishments to reach its goals. CDOT officials will be upgrading outdated traffic sensors on I-25 (called SMART 25: Ridgegate to University) to reduce stop-and-go traffic and car accidents, while managing flow without an extra roadway.

For EVs, CDOT is collaborating with the Colorado Energy Office and NREL to launch a map that details the installation of various electric charging stations around the state. All three groups will participate in end-to-end planning and execution, from raising funds to delivering the EV charging hubs. Lastly, for enhanced guidance, CDOT will revamp some roads with reflective and durable components to ensure self-driving components (cameras, LIDAR and etc.) will be able to detect lane markings with ease.

"Automakers and tech companies both believe that V2X is one of the cornerstones to making programs like RoadX a reality, so it's refreshing to actually see this technology heading into the real world," explained Andrew Krok from CNET.

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