Ford North America announcedtheir international researchcollaboration with Professor Hsin-Mu Michael Tsai's research team in the Dept. of Computer Science and Information Engineering, National Taiwan University, in a joint press conference held in Taipei on October 21, 2015. The collaborative research project aims to eliminate traffic shockwave, a usual cause for traffic congestion, using the innovative vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) visible light communications (VLC) technology, so that both vehicle energy efficiency and safety can be improved.
Professor Tsai’s research team has been working in depth on the V2V VLC technology for the past few years. The main idea of the technology is very simple. The transmitting vehicle uses its LED light’s output intensity to represent different digital bit patterns to be transmitted. On the receiving vehicle, a light sensor is used to capture the change of light intensity, which is then decoded to retrieve the transmitted digital information. Conventionally, VLC receivers usually use dedicated and special-purposed light sensors, which introduces significant cost. Prof. Tsai’s team at NTU has developed an approach to utilize commodity cameras such as those in smartphones and tablets to capture and decode the signal transmitted by the LED lights, which avoids the use of costly sensors and lowers the barrier for bringing the technology to the market.
When used for automotive purposes, VLC provides high reliability compared to Radio Freqeuncy (RF) wireless technologies, as it can avoid most interference generated by nearby vehicles due to visible light’s propagation properties – highly directional and (almost) line-of-sight only. Utilizing VLC between vehicles, drivers could have a more clear knowledge of the status of the preceding vehicle, such as its heading, speed, location, and whether the vehicle is braking, reducing the chance of a traffic accident. When coordinating the speed of the vehicles in the same lane, the technology could eliminate unnecessary variation of the distance between consecutive vehicles, which in turn increases the road capacity to avoid traffic congestion. Moreover, as the distance between vehicles can now be reduced without comprimising safety, the aerodynamic drag of the following vehicles can be greatly reduced, which creates new opportunities for energy savings.
Thomas Fan, Chairman of Ford Lio Ho Motor Company (Ford’s Taiwanese subsidary), said, “Taking advantage of Taiwan’s strengths in hardware and software development, this new research collaboration can not only improves the driving experience on the roads in Taiwan, but is also instrumental in bootstraping Taiwan’s participation in developing global transportation solutions in the future.”