The Victorian Government has announced it will begin an Australian first connected vehicles trial to improve road safety. Cars automatically connecting with each other and roadside infrastructure will begin testing features like emergency braking alerts, turn assist and speed limit warnings. The vehicles are not autonomous but the technology is foundational for driverless cars.

The Victorian Government tipped in $3.5 million from its $9 million Connected and Automated Vehicle Trial Grants Program, with lead partners Telstra and Lexus providing the technology.

Trials have been underway since late last year, when the project was announced, but vehicles will now move out of controlled conditions onto metropolitan and regional roads.

Lexus cars “talk to each other” either by direct connection or via a modified version of the Telstra 4G mobile networks known as “Vehicle-to-Everything” (car data transfer is prioritised over general use of the network to keep latency to a minimum). Cars also connect to roadside infrastructure to update onboard systems.

An in-car alert generated from the Vehicle-To-Everything system. Supplied.

According to Telstra and Lexus, that allows safety-critical messages to get through in an appropriate time. Cars can receive alerts on speed warnings, slow or stopped vehicle notices, and pedestrian alerts. Red light warnings can also let drivers know when another car may be about to run a red light, prompting them to stop even though a traffic signal may be green.

“We can get information to the car and advise the driver about something they haven’t even seen yet, giving them time to act and avoid an incident,” said Vesna Benns, corporate manager, advanced planning, Lexus.

The project is part of the VicRoads’ ongoing effort to improve driver and road safety.

“Connected and automated vehicles will play a huge part in reducing lives lost and serious injuries on our roads in the future,” said VicRoads chief executive Robyn Seymour. “That’s why we’re getting ready to implement this technology to start making a big impact on our roads.”

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