App can detect pedestrians and cyclist on collision course
Internet-connected cars will be able to identify pedestrians and cyclists on a collision course simply by tracking their smartphones, new Australia-first trials showed.
The on-road car technology tests, launched by Telstra in Adelaide, examined whether cars with a 4G mobile phone connection in their dashboard could automatically detect cyclists and pedestrians in tricky road situations, including while reversing out of driveways or at pedestrian crossings.
The trials were designed to pave the way for more driverless car technology to be exported from Australia, as part of what is expected to become a $90 billion industry.
Telstra chief technology officer Hakan Eriksson said the tests were the first "vehicle-to-pedestrian" trials held in the Southern Hemisphere, and represented "an important step in the journey to fully autonomous vehicles on Australian roads".
As part of the trial, the telco created a smartphone app for pedestrians and cyclists, while South Australian firm Cohda Wireless installed software and an internet connection into the dashboard of a car.
When the app detects a vehicle is within 20m of colliding with a pedestrian or cyclist, it alerts both users with a warning screen and alert tone.
Mr Eriksson said the "early warning collision detection technology" could become part of an autonomous crash avoidance system when connected to other parts of a vehicle.
"You can connect it to the brakes of the cars," he said.
"Now we have the detection part, if you want to do collision avoidance you can do that.
"In theory, it takes three seconds (to respond to a crash). It takes one second for a human to react and then it takes two seconds for the rest to happen. That one second it takes for a human to react can be eliminated."
Cohda Wireless chief engineer Fabien Cure said introducing the connected car technology, and other autonomous measures, could help cut Australia's road toll.
"It's important to note that the ability for cars to talk to each other can prevent up to 80 per cent of the fatalities on our road," Mr Cure said.
Neither company has committed to launching the cyclist-tracking technology yet, however.
The trials are among the first on-road autonomous car tests in Australia after South Australia passed laws allowing the technology on its roads in June last year.
Victoria also staged driverless car trials along its EastLink motorway this year, and New South Wales announced plans to legalise similar tests.
Driverless and connected cars are expected to become a multibillion-dollar market over the next three years, with more than 21 million internet-connected cars launched this year, according to Gartner, and more than 60 million available by 2020.
Gartner research director James Hines said many would use cameras and radar systems to detect and identify potential hazards as one of the first steps to fully automated vehicles.
Telstra has previously argued that all cars registered in Australia should be autonomous by the 2020s to prevent road accidents caused by human error.