If autonomous vehicles are to become a reality, the perfection of vehicle-to-X (V2X) technology is necessary. V2X technology allows vehicles, roadways, and management systems to communicate with one another, sharing the information necessary to make travel in self-driving cars safe and efficient.
In developed nations like the United States, adapting V2X to existing infrastructure poses a challenge. Just as centuries-old cities like Boston were built without thought to modern vehicles, no regions within the U.S. have baked V2X into their transportation systems from the start. That leaves cash-strapped municipalities with two choices: rip everything up and start over or overlay V2X on top of what exists.
Obviously, the second choice is the most palatable from a cost standpoint, and Panasonic has a solution. Pilot tested in Colorado, Georgia, and Utah, Cirrus by Panasonic is a real-time, cloud-based, data-sharing platform that companies and governments can embed into vehicles and apply to existing roadways and other infrastructure.
Jarrett Wendt, Executive Vice President CityNOW, Panasonic Corporation of North America explains the technology: “Cirrus by Panasonic is accessible, adaptable, extensible and secure, developed using industry V2X standards so that it can be easily integrated into existing transportation systems.”
Translated, the technology provides maximum flexibility with minimum modification to existing infrastructure.
Pilot testing began in the late teens, with a formal introduction at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. A year later, Cirrus by Panasonic is an Innovation Award honoree at the 2020 CES. Panasonic also confirms the system is nearly ready for widespread deployment and expects to launch a marketing campaign for the technology in the spring.
How Cirrus by Panasonic works
Colorado’s RoadX smart highways program proved one of the more rigorous pilot tests of Cirrus by Panasonic.
In partnership with Qualcomm Technologies and Ford Motor Company, Panasonic deployed 100 data collection units along a 90-mile stretch of challenging Interstate 70 between Denver and Vail. Mountainous, and often beset by terrible weather, Cirrus helped the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) monitor traffic, hazardous driving conditions, and collisions along the busy corridor. In turn, CDOT could issue real-time alerts to motorists with the goal of improving safety.
Ultimately, with Cirrus embedded in vehicles, the V2X technology will use them as rolling traffic network sensors. Vehicles will continuously transmit data to collection units, which sends the information to the cloud for processing and use by departments of transportation and automakers.
Given Panasonic’s imminent rollout of Cirrus, early implementations will primarily serve as external information-gathering systems for real-time traffic management and traveler alerts. Additional benefits will be available to motorists and municipalities alike as Panasonic brings automakers on-board, makes consumers comfortable with information gathering and its use, and as more of the nation’s roads implement the data collection and wireless communication systems necessary for V2X to work.
With V2X and autonomous vehicles, highway capacity can potentially quadruple, according to Panasonic. (Photo: Denys Nevozhai/Unsplash)
Clear benefits, clear challenges
Panasonic says that in the short-term Cirrus can potentially reduce non-impaired collisions by up to 80%. Once V2X is in widespread use by autonomous vehicles, it can possibly quadruple existing highway capacity. In places like Colorado, where the population and traffic continue to blossom, this is an appealing alternative to paving over even more of the Centennial state.
Here’s the question, though: Who is responsible for the data? All parties must establish rules and regulations around information collection, usage, storage, and security. And until there is a clear answer for that question, widespread adoption of V2X technology and autonomous vehicles will remain a dream instead of a reality.