Autonomous cars have displayed their potential in a live demo in Adelaide on the weekend. Cohda Wireless, an Australian connected autonomous vehicles company, said their demonstration was a “world first” for self driving cars connecting to each other and roadside units to determine their position.

Previous trials of autonomous cars relied on the vehicles connecting to satellites and on board sensors to navigate, leaving them vulnerable to satellite black spots, according to Cohda Wireless.

But the latest demonstration, in a controlled section of two city blocks near Adelaide’s Victoria Square, was designed to simulate common traffic scenarios in “urban canyons” where traditional Global Navigation Satellite Systems are rendered inaccurate because of urban infrastructure.

To overcome this, the Cohda Wireless technology allows autonomous cars to “talk” to each other and nearby units attached to traffic infrastructure directly. The company says the feature means the self driving cars are more accurate and can prevent collisions that human drivers could not, such as at blind intersections.

“Cohda’s V2X technology allows vehicles to ‘speak to each other’ to extend their perception horizon,” said Cohda Wireless’s Chief Technical Officer Professor Paul Alexander.

“The technology provides the vehicle with an awareness of its environment and risk factors associated with it, consistently and accurately up to ten times per second, enabling it to make decisions that a human being would not be capable of making as the driver of the vehicle.”

Vehicle to everything

Vehicles connected through Cohda’s V2X (Vehicle-To-Everything) technology and a range of on board sensors can achieve positioning accuracy to within a metre, according to the company. That compares to typical GPS and Global Navigation Satellite Systems which can be out by up to 10 and 40 metres respectively in urban environments, according to Cohda Wireless.

“Our goal today was not only to demonstrate the efficacy of our technology in enabling self-driven vehicles to communicate with each other but also to do so in a city environment where so-called ‘urban canyons’ significantly affect the ability of systems reliant on Global Navigation Satellite Systems to achieve accurate positioning,” said Prof Alexander.

However, the potential safety of autonomous vehicles is not yet well recognised, according to Alexander.

“The role of technology in making our roads safer is probably not generally understood but we hope that this demonstration has helped to prove that with the appropriate technology and infrastructure, connected self-driving vehicles are safer to have on our roads than vehicles controlled entirely by human beings”, added Professor Alexander.

The technology is part of Cohda Wireless’s Smart Cars Smart City initiative was funded by the South Australian Department of Transport and Infrastructure’s Future Mobility Lab Fund. The company has several offices around the world and has also trialled its technology in New York.

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