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Our cars may soon talk to each other on a 4G network to improve road safety

In partnership with Lexus Australia, Telstra is set to trial new, potentially life-saving communication technology in cars on Victorian roads.

The Victorian Government became the first in the Western world to make wearing seat belts compulsory way back in 1970, now 48 years later they are at the forefront of another safety revolution.

In the modern world, car safety technology has grown from simple seat belts and anti-lock braking systems to more complex additions like radars, sensors and cameras.

All have one goal, which they have continued to achieve – to reduce the frequency and severity of road crashes.

With that aim in mind, under the Towards Zero program – an initiative aimed at reducing road-related fatalities to zero – the Victorian Government has awarded a A$3.5 million grant to Telstra and Lexus Australia in the hope of creating safer roads.

The project, called Advanced Connected Vehicles Victoria, will test Telstra’s new Cellular V2X technology and advanced driver assist features. Cellular V2X gives cars the ability to converse with each other and their surroundings.

I know what you’re thinking, but the tech isn’t quite like Disney’s Cars. Using Telstra’s 4G network and direct short-range wireless links, cars communicate with their ‘environment’, which includes other cars, trucks, traffic lights, roadworks and even pedestrians and cyclists.

The connected vehicles are able to send important messages to each other, including speed zone warnings and upcoming hazards. It’s kind of like every vehicle, hazard, road sign and traffic light is using Waze at the same time.

Connected car communications

V2X technology creates a communicative ecosystem on our roads. (Image: Telstra)

Let’s pretend you’re driving and an old lady walks out in front of you. You stamp on the brakes and pull to a halt metres from the lady. As relief floods your body, you feel a thud from behind you as the car trailing you crashes into the back of your car. Bummer.

Now let’s pretend both cars were equipped with V2X technology. The old lady walks out, you brake – and your car sends a message to the car behind you within milliseconds, saying, “Hey, we are braking hard here, watch out.” The car behind you warns its driver, saving precious seconds and preventing the crash.

The connected vehicle safety systems being trialled are capable of providing emergency braking alerts, in-vehicle speed limit warnings, right-turn assist for vulnerable road users and warnings when nearby vehicles are likely to run a red light.

Other applications for the technology to be tested during the trial include investigating how to securely transmit speed zone, traffic light timing and other signals to cars in real-time.

While Australia – and the world – makes the slow transition to automated vehicles, this program finds a more palatable balance between intelligent transport technology and human drivers.

“Well before autonomous vehicles are commonplace, communications technology is set to create an even safer experience,” said Telstra Chief Technology Officer Håkan Erikson in a blog post.

Two Lexus vehicles will be deployed onto Victorian roads to trial the Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything technology.

[Feature and body images courtesy of Telstra]

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