When does the car become the driver?

A snow-covered road. Heavy traffic. Beyond your line of sight, a driver brakes suddenly at an icy stretch. You can’t see the brake lights, but your car receives real-time data from vehicles ahead. The car itself makes speed adjustments, keeping you at a safe distance.

You might never know you were at risk.

Detecting and sharing real-time road data is one of many advanced wireless communication technologies studied at the University of Waterloo’s Centre for Automotive Research (WatCAR) led by Waterloo researcher and the centre’s executive director Amir Khajepour. So-called “advanced driver systems,” are part of an ambitious long-term vision to reduce collisions, lower repair costs, and save lives.

“We’re working with industry partners to enhance wireless technologies and get them actively working in vehicles,” Khajepour says. “While intelligent vehicles are already technologically possible, our researchers are figuring out how to implement them within regulations and standards, determine what information drivers need, and ultimately ensure the ‘voice’ of the vehicle is conveyed effectively.”

Khajepour is leading a project to develop tools that can make travel safer, improve traffic flow, and enable instant access to emergency services. Such technologies help manufacturers stay at the cutting edge, allowing information to be shared among vehicles, roadside infrastructure, and smart phones.

In poor visibility, for example, road signs could text their information to drivers’ smartphones, where it would be read through vehicle’s speaker system. Integrating smartphones, GPS, internet connectivity and other increasingly dependable and pervasive technologies can make drivers aware of dangers they can’t see, keep them focused on the road, and help them handle and react to the complexities of automotive navigation. For drivers, the research underway by Khajepour’s team holds tremendous potential for saving lives.

**Major funders for this research include the Ontario Research Fund of the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation, Automotive Partnership Canada, and Canadian Foundation for Innovation.

Amir Khajepour

Amir Khajepour

University of Waterloo

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