Ice warning from the cloud

March 20, 2014 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
In geographies with a pronounced winter season, sheet ice can turn roads into a skating rink without drivers noticing it immediately. Swedish carmaker Volvo now tests a system that warns drivers of slippery patches. Unlike car2x, Volvo's system taps the cloud to spread the information.

In a joint field trial with the Swedish Transport Administration and the Norwegian Public Roads Administration, Volvo collects road friction data from 50 vehicles and shares them with others in a cloud-based system. Road conditions are measured inherently by the vehicles' Electronic Stability Control (ESP): As soon as a car hits a slippery area of the road, the ESP is activated to stabilise the car. This action is collected as the signal for hazardous road condition and passed on to the cloud through a mobile phone network.

Detecting slippery road stretches and sharing this information with cars in the environment was one of the drivers for the development of the car-to-car communications technology. However, while c2x uses a modified version of the WiFi standard and thus has a very limited range, Volvos system under test right now taps wireless telecommunications network to warn other drivers - which makes sense because it reaches more traffic participants and thus improves road safety.

In the vehicles, a software determines the severity of the hazard depending on road conditions and vehicle speed. Besides transmitting warning messages to the vehicles in the vicinity of the icy patch and displaying an according message at the dashboard of the car, the information is also routed to the road administrator as a complement to existing measurement stations along the road. These data can help the entities involved in winter road maintenance to adapt to the situation and take appropriate measures. The number of vehicles reporting icy conditions can be used to improve the overall maintenance situation.

At the presentation of this system, Volvo announced further investments into projects aiming an creating cloud-based solutions and sophisticated communications as part of the company's connected experience. The projects will have three focus areas: Traffic safety, travel comfort and improved traffic flow.

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