The Future of Vehicular Safety Communications Systems

This article is going to stray a little off-topic. Before the end, I’m going to bring it back to the topic of augmented reality and virtual reality. I hope you find it interesting.

As mentioned in my previous article, I’m taking some graduate level computer security courses as part of my continuing education. Right now, I’m taking a quick break from my project which investigates security vulnerabilities in next generation vehicular safety systems. These systems, under development today, have been given the green light by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

If things go as plan, your vehicle will send and receive reports on position, speed, heading (and more) to surrounding vehicles. The road may transmit information to you such as posted warning signs (curve ahead), weather conditions, or upcoming road hazards.

In the short term, this data will used to give important information to drivers as they are going down the road. (These systems might warn you that someone is running a stop sign in the intersection in front of you, or that a vehicle which is two cars ahead of you has slammed on their brakes.) In the long-term, this sets us on the path for self-driving vehicles.

So what does this have to do Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality? When you dive down into the specifications for this new automotive network, things start to look really cool. Take a look at this message specification.

Image Source: Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) Message Set Dictionary Support Page at SAE International

That’s a descriptor for a road sign. It is giving us the position of the sign, the direction that the sign is facing, and the Federal Highway Administration’s code for what type of sign it is. Pretty cool, right?

The kinds of things it tells us about the surrounding vehicles is even cooler. Position, speed, heading, vehicle size, and much more. It even tells us if it is an emergency vehicle with its emergency lights on. All of this is refreshed up to ten times per second. You can find more specifications at SAE International’s website.

In addition to vehicles, signs, and weather, the network also transmits data on roads, lanes, and pedestrians. What can we do with all of this information? We can create either a virtual reality or an augmented reality representation of the world around us. From there, we can create applications which exist outside of the vehicular ad-hoc networks. I’m quite sure we can build things beyond just real-time vehicular safety. Useful things? Entertaining things?

One paper I found, Augmented Reality Driving Supported by Vehicular Ad Hoc Networking, explores the use of this data in Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. It also presents the idea of using a virtual sound technology to make the driver more aware of their surroundings. This could be the start of some really interesting applications.

This is approximately where I was heading with a concept I briefly mentioned called the Real Home. The Real Home would be a representation of your actual home which works in either augmented reality or virtual reality. The idea is to merge real-world sensors and real-world controls and be able to integrate those controls into a real-world representation that could be used for a number of different purposes.

I recently saw a TED Talk on how to fool a GPS receiver. The more interesting part of his presentation is his prediction of low-cost millimeter-accurate GPS “dots” that could be attached to objects in your home. You could be able to track household items in both virtual reality and augmented reality.

What would you do with a virtual reality representation of the road around you? A representation of your own home?

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