At Mercedes-Benz, it is not only the drivers who are connected to the mobile network: The vehicles have also long been communicating with each other – and with the infrastructure. Car-to-X technologies enable a completely new form of information exchange. With those, the networked car looks round the corner and through walls. It warns those coming behind it of hazards and prevents accidents. In other words: It ensures more safety and comfort. Another milestone towards autonomous driving has therefore been reached.
This term conceals a new world of communication: "Car-to-X" stands for technologies with which vehicles exchange information in real-time. This happens completely independently via WiFi or mobile radio. Mercedes-Benz has already put this innovation on the road: The E- and S-Class use car-to-car communication to warn the following vehicles of unexpected risks. In case of black ice or an accident, information is sent to other models in the series in less than a second. The automobile is becoming a warning device.
The centerpiece of the "Internet of Things"
The vehicles do not just have the ability to communicate with each other. The E- and S-Class is already equipped for the next step: for vehicle-to-infrastructure communication. The crossing is blocked? Visibility poor? All of this information is also forwarded by the technology via secure data networks to a Mercedes-Benz server. This becomes a kind of traffic control center – with the vehicle fleet as the most important source of information. The next step in digital networking has therefore been achieved: The automobile becomes the centerpiece of the "Internet of Things".
Communicating with traffic lights and road works
This network becomes even denser when the infrastructure also transmits information. Hesse has become the first federal state in Germany to install an across-the-board, ready-to-use warning system with Car-to-X transmission technology at temporary roadworks. This protects not only the drivers, but also the employees of the road maintenance depots – who may be working behind a bend, for example. Cars will soon even be able to "speak" to traffic lights: The vehicle will then receive information, for example, about when exactly the next green phase will begin.
Sim TD – safety as the highest priority
The advantages of this innovative approach are manifold. Safety is the most important topic of all. Together with its partners, Daimler has conducted the "Sichere Intelligente Mobilität – Testfeld Deutschland" (Safe Intelligent Mobility - Test Field Germany, sim TD) research project for this purpose. In 41,000 hours, 500 participants have covered more than 1.6 million kilometers – a unique field trial. The result: Car-to-X functions significantly increase safety while driving. With full penetration of the market, an estimated 6.5 billion euros would be saved annually in economic costs due to accidents. Environmental pollution would also be significantly reduced if road transport infrastructures were used more efficiently. The security of the data has to be guaranteed of course.
Strong support for "Intelligent Drive"
Car-to-X will increasingly supplement the tried and tested "Intelligent Drive" functions. Thanks to the sophisticated sensor technology, Mercedes-Benz vehicles are already able to detect dangerous situations in road traffic with this and react to them appropriately. COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST, for example, a radar-based assistance system, warns the driver of the risk of a collision. COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST PLUS can even break autonomously. Vehicles with DISTRONIC PLUS with Steering Assist are already mastering the partially automated traffic jam vehicle following function.
An end to searching for a parking space
And how will things go on? In the future, vehicles will be informed about possible obstacles that lie ahead and plan alternative routes. A number of user-friendly applications are also being planned concerning the topic of parking. Last year, Bosch and Daimler therefore started a field trial in Stuttgart to investigate "Community-based Parking": This system has parking sensors fitted to the cars that scan the edge of the road for free parking spaces as the vehicle drives past. They share the information in anonymized form via the cloud. Soon, anyone who is searching for a parking space is directly guided to the nearest free space – it is calming your nerves, environmentally-friendly and efficient.
Automated garage parking
The Parking Pilot also promises more comfort and safety: Via an app on a smartphone, tablet or smart watch, the car can be sent to be parked automated. The precondition for this is an intelligent, fully networked parking garage, as well as corresponding sensors and software in the vehicle. Then even tight parking spaces are no longer a problem. Because there is no need for space to get in and out of the vehicle. Driverless parking will be a reality in the parking garage of the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart in a short time. There, cars will drive alone into the allocated parking space.
Precise maps and real-time data from HERE
However, Car-to-X and autonomous driving on the road need an important basis: precise map material. Daimler uses products from HERE for high-resolution maps and real-time traffic data. In 2015, Daimler, Audi and BMW took over equal parts of this map service. Therefore four out of five new vehicles sold with integrated navigation systems in Europe and North America are already equipped with the map materials of HERE today. Thanks to these maps, in future the vehicles can look around the corner and detect road hazards in order to adapt their driving style accordingly and prepare the driver for the situation. The new-generation of networked vehicles can not only use this material, but can also expand and improve it themselves – thanks to the information on the environment, which they themselves collect through the integrated Car-to-X technology.