NTU and Ford Motor Company Collaborate to Mitigate Traffic Congestion
Ford North America announced its international research collaboration with NTU’s Prof. Hsin-Mu Michael Tsai (蔡欣穆) in a joint press conference on October 21. Working with the computer science and information engineering professor and his research team, the motor giant is looking for a solution to eliminate traffic shockwaves, one of the most common causes for traffic congestion, and to improve vehicle energy efficiency and safety.
The joint research team will utilize the innovative vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) visible light communications (VLC) technology in the solution, which makes use of cars’ LED lights to transmit wireless signals.
Prof. Tsai’s research team has been working in depth on the V2V VLC technology for the past few years. According to Tsai, the main idea of the technology is relatively simple. The transmitting vehicle uses its LED light’s output intensity to represent different digital bit patterns to be transmitted. Meanwhile, on the receiving vehicle, a light sensor is used to capture the change of light intensity, which is then decoded to retrieve the transmitted digital information.
The VLC technology developed by Prof. Tsai’s research team provides a number of benefits. Firstly, conventional VLC receivers are produced using dedicated and specific-purposed light sensors, which amount to a significant cost to their production. To address this limitation, Prof. Tsai’s team has developed an approach to utilize commodity cameras, such as those used in smartphones and tablets, to capture and decode the optical signals. Consequently, the new design avoids the use of costly sensors, significantly lowering the barrier for bringing the technology to market.
In addition, when used for automotive purposes, VLC provides much higher reliability compared to the prevailing Radio Frequency wireless technologies. This is because light, which is highly directional, cannot penetrate visual obstruction; thus the majority of the interference generated by nearby vehicles’ transmission would not reach the receiver.
By utilizing VLC between vehicles, drivers are given a clearer knowledge of the status of the preceding and nearby vehicles, including their heading, speed, location, as well as information as to whether the drivers are stepping on their brakes. These aspects can significantly reduce the chance of traffic accidents. When coordinating the speed of the vehicles in the same lane, the technology can also eliminate unnecessary variation of the distance between consecutive vehicles that causes the traffic shockwave, increasing the road capacity to avoid traffic congestion. As the distance between vehicles can now be reduced without compromising safety, the aerodynamic drag of the following vehicles can be greatly reduced. This further contributes to new opportunities for energy savings.
Commenting on the new bond, Chairman Thomas Fan (范炘) of Ford’s Taiwan subsidiary, Ford Lio Ho Motor Company, stated, “Taking advantage of Taiwan’s strengths in hardware and software development, this new research collaboration not only improves the driving experience in Taiwan, in the future, the research results are also instrumental to bootstrapping Taiwan’s participation in the global effort to develop transportation solutions.”