With some experts predicting autonomous vehicles will be roaming our cities in as little as five years, an Australian company has just demonstrated a timely ground-breaking self driving and safety package in a live trial on Adelaide streets.

In a closed off area covering two city blocks just east of the city’s Victoria Square, the demonstration replicated a scenario that is a daily occurrence on the streets of cities all over the world: Two vehicles approach a four-way intersection at right angles to each other.

Car 2, driven by a human, fails to stop at the red traffic light, approaching the intersection at speed.

Car 1, a connected autonomous vehicle, is approaching the intersection from another direction, aiming to go through the intersection on a green light.

In a real-life scenario, there would be a risk of a collision as human drivers will usually approach the intersection when the light is green, fully confident all other road users will obey the traffic signals.

In an instance where Car 2 disobeyed the traffic signal and Car 1 was unable to see the approaching danger, due to visibility being obstructed by buildings or other infrastructure, a life-threatening collision would be likely.

In this trial there was no accident as Car 1 (AI) used its on-board systems to slow down and avoid a crash, highlighting the potential for connected self-driven vehicles to make streets much safer than they currently are.

The technology – developed by SA headquartered Cohda Wireless – proved the technology is effective even in the most challenging of environments – the so-called urban canyons of a typical city.

Cohda Wireless’s Chief Technical Officer Professor Paul Alexander said  if the vehicles are connected using Cohda’s V2X (Vehicle-To-Everything) technology, a potential collision situation would be detected and avoided before it happened.

“We demonstrated that when vehicles are connected to each other using our smart V2X technology, Car 1, the connected autonomous vehicle, would detect that Car 2 is approaching the red light at speed and is probably not going to stop.

This allows the connected autonomous vehicle to pre-emptively identify and respond to the threat by slowing down and stopping.

“Cohda’s V2X technology allows vehicles to ‘speak to each other’ to extend their perception horizon,” Alexander said.

“The technology provides the vehicle with an awareness of its environment and risk factors associated with it, consistently and accurately up to ten times per second, enabling it to make decisions that a human being would not be capable of making as the driver of the vehicle.”

Cohda’s Smart Cars Smart City initiative was funded by the South Australian Department of Transport and Infrastructure’s Future Mobility Lab Fund.

In June, Cohda Wireless took ownership of two specially-modified Lincoln MKZ sedans from the US which it is using in advanced trials of its V2X technology.

The cars are fitted with the ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems), ROS (Robot Operating System) several sensors including Lidar, radar, cameras, GPS, as well as in-vehicle compute platform and Cohda’s GNSS independent positioning technology.

The technology package gives the vehicles’ a perception capability and make the autonomous vehicles features more practical, to include threat detection, the dangers associated with blind intersections and vulnerable road users.

“Our goal [with the demonstration] was not only to demonstrate the efficacy of our technology in enabling self-driven vehicles to communicate with each other but also to do so in a city environment where so-called urban canyons significantly affect the ability of systems reliant on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) to achieve accurate positioning,” added Alexander.

“The area in the city of Adelaide in which the trial was conducted was one such urban canyon where positioning through GNSS can be off by up to 40 metres, but with our V2X Locate technology positioning accuracy is improved to within a metre.”

Cohda Wireless first demonstrated the V2X-Locate system in a 2017 trial in New York city where it repeatedly demonstrated sub-metre accuracy while driving along Sixth Avenue, which has the tallest buildings in the Big Apple.

Comparably tested GPS-based systems were as much as tens of metres off-course, at times showing cars driving through buildings. Cohda’s V2X technology underpins and complements other technology used by autonomous vehicles such as cameras, sensors, radars and lidars by enabling cooperative perception.

“The role of technology in making our roads safer is probably not generally understood but we hope that this demonstration has helped to prove that with the appropriate technology and infrastructure, connected self-driving vehicles are safer to have on our roads than vehicles controlled entirely by human beings”, Alexander said.

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