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Last edited 17 Jan 2021
How to connect unconnected vehicles
There is a lot said about how future vehicles will connect to each other and to infrastructure. I’ve been assessing the benefits to congestion and safety that data from human driven vehicles could bring – long before self driving vehicles achieve wide use.
But there are some key questions:
- How do we make it all happen?
- Who pays for the data?
- How do they pay?
What happens to older vehicles?
But there is a big challenge. There are 38 million vehicles in the UK with around 2 million new ones every year. The average age of a UK vehicle is 7.8 years (2015). So it will take years to churn through, even allowing for newer vehicles doing more miles and many older vehicles that travel very little.
For cars built after 1996 there is a solution to help us transition. There is a socket under the dashboard called the ‘on-board diagnostic 2 port’.
A dongle can be plugged into this to get the vehicle’s data and measure its location using GPS. Adding an accelerometer makes the dongle an accident recorder (and allows the measuring of potholes too). Adding a SIM card turns any suitable vehicle into a connected car.
The investment in these cheap devices is by the vehicle owner for insurance, vehicle monitoring and other services that will more than recover their cost. The data is provided ‘as a service’ by companies providing dongles to customers like towns and cities – a business model already in place for congestion information which can be extended to other data streams.
With more technology development older vehicles can even broadcast “I am here” messages, just like new vehicles. This will help network managers with new asset and vehicle data to reduce costs of maintaining existing roads and planning future ones. This will be a key enabler for towns and cities to adopt connected vehicles.
But what about older vehicles that don’t have an OBD2 port (or even electrical system!)? Many of the functions of the dongle for road safety and location can just come from a smartphone app. Smartphones churn through every two years, much faster than cars. But you must remember to take your phone with you and have it charged.
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