DRIVE-IN is on the Road Connecting Vehicles and Improving Safety

 /uploadedImages/people/faculty-researchers/ferreia-michel_100x100.jpg

Have you ever imagined a world without road accidents, and where cars could communicate with each other? This seems an improbable scenario but the DRIVE-IN project, carried out by researchers of the Universidade de Aveiro, Universidade do Porto and Carnegie Mellon University with several companies, could make it real.

The aim of this project, as part of the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program, is to improve user experience and the overall efficiency of vehicle and road utilization through a pioneer vehicle-to-vehicle communication system, which will help to prevent car crashes or pile-ups. Michel Ferreira, researcher of the Instituto de Telecomunicações and faculty member at Faculdade de Ciências of the Universidade do Porto, is the principal investigator of this project in the Portuguese side. He explains: “today we still use car lights and horns to communicate with the other drivers,” adding “well, imagine that your car is connected with other cars, using a network similar to the one we have in our homes to access the Internet.”

The project involves a fleet of 450 taxis from Raditaxis in the city of Porto, Portugal, since 2011. The experience with Raditaxis, which has been very successful so far, made it possible to design and validate a number of complex issues in terms of vehicle networks, optimizing their mobility, security applications, entertainment and traffic control efficiency. “We were able to understand the speed in real-time transmissions between cars, namely video transmissions,” says Michel Ferreira. As a result, the research team designed different applications. “In the specific context of taxi fleets, we were able to use collective sensing on the taxi meters, which allowed us not only to understand the city and mobility patterns, but also to design advanced recommendation systems for taxi ranks,” stresses Michel Ferreira. “In the summer of 2012, we began to assess the vehicle-to-vehicle communication using hardware developed by the project team itself,” he adds.

 The research team developed a prototype, which allows vehicle-to-vehicle communication through the IEEE 802.11p, a standard used to add wireless access in vehicular environments (WAVE). The exchange of information is made in real time using a wireless router developed at Instituto de Telecomunicações, which can, for example, “timely transmit video from vehicles in the front so that obstructions like large trucks can become ‘transparent’ to vehicles behind them,” says Fausto Vieira, researcher at the Instituto de Telecomunicações. With this prototype, "the passengers can also access the Internet from inside the vehicle, using a normal receptor, a mobile phone, a laptop or a tablet, where all the information shared by other vehicles is accessible, and data collected by the automobile can as well be broadcast," says Susana Sargento, researcher at the Instituto de Telecomunicações and faculty member at the Universidade de Aveiro (UA).

 Fauto Vieira

Vehicle-to-vehicle communication opens a myriad of new applications, including dissemination of location-based information, vehicle-based social networking and distributed interactive games. The system also provides traffic information, for example, “there is a program that indicates where the taxis are and the distance between them,” states Susana Sargento. Furthermore, the system can indicate where the highest concentrations of passengers are.

From traffic safety to entertainment, DRIVE-IN (Distributed Routing and Infotainment through Vehicular Inter-Networking) has numerous applications. "DRIVE-IN explores the paradigm of the connected vehicle where the driver receives the information through a wireless self-organized network (without requiring a cellular network operating infrastructure), and with extremely high connection speeds between cars," explains Michel Ferreira.

When it comes to entertainment, the researcher from IT says, “whatever we do on the Internet on our home computer could also be done in a car trip.” It will be possible for passengers from different vehicles to play with each other and speak by videoconference.

 /uploadedImages/people/faculty_exchange/susana_sargento.jpg

The DRIVE-IN project started three years ago during the first phase of the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program as a result of common interests of researchers from the Universidade do Porto, Universidade de Aveiro and Carnegie Mellon University. The project has evolved due to the support of the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program, funded by the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, in collaboration with the industrial partner NDrive. Furthermore, Geolink, RadiTáxis and Instituto de Mobilidade e Transportes Terrestres (IMTT) are associated with the project. Other than Michel Ferreira, Susana Sargento, and Peter Steenkiste (from CMU), the DRIVE-IN project also involves dual degree Ph.D. students. The researchers developed concepts, methodologies and technologies in three main research areas: geo-optimized VANET protocols, intelligent and collaborative car routing and VANET applications and services.

The large-scale testbeds gave the researchers another perspective on their work. “It is very interesting for the university to work so closely with the 700 drivers involved in the project. Because of that we can understand their problems and the way science could help solve them,” states Michel Ferreira.

The researchers confirm that in a few years the system may be widely used in all sorts of vehicles: cars, buses and trucks will be able to operate in a networked fashion, sharing important information, and navigation and safety decisions may be based on the messages received from neighboring nodes.

The DRIVE-IN project ended last year, but it led its researchers to other research projects, namely Virtual Traffic Lights (funded by FCT), the Center of Competence in Future Cities (funded by the EU) or I-CITY, which already provide the funding to continue to improve traffic safety and our daily life. Another result of the project was the creation of Veniam ‘Works, a spinoff founded by João Barros, former national director of the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program and researcher at the Universidade do Porto, and Susana Sargento, researcher at the Universidade de Aveiro.

Videos about this project:
See-Through System: an overtaking assistance system: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Esh1EjgBQaI
http://www.dcc.fc.up.pt/~prg/wnp_test.avi
http://www.dcc.fc.up.pt/~prg/demo_mobicom.avi 
http://www.dcc.fc.up.pt/~prg/vtl_porto.avi

May 2013