Secure Vehicle to Vehicle Communications Systems: Highlights from ITS World Congress

Posted by William Whyte on October 25, 2011 at 10:03 AM

Last week, I attend the ITS World Congress, the annual global showcase for intelligent transportation systems. There were lots of interesting demonstrations, and I wanted to share my favorites:

The Collision Avoidance Metrics Partnership (CAMP).

This is one of the safety-of-life applications that I talked about in a recent article. I was able to ride in a car, driven by a trained test driver, and fully instrumented so that (among other things):

  • When the car in front of the car in front of us slammed on the brakes, the driver was warned by a beep, a heads-up display on the windshield, and “haptic feedback” (i.e. the seat massaged your bottom, which wasn’t as pleasant as it sounds).
  • When a vehicle was in our driver’s blind spot, a light lit up on the rear-view mirror
  • When our driver signaled to overtake, but a car was coming that he couldn’t see because the car in front was in the way, the blind spot indicator lit up and we also got the beep and the bum-tickling.
  • At an intersection, if another car ran the lights and went across us, there was a heads-up display showing where to look as well as the beep and the haptic feedback. This was the most impressive part of the demo, as the crossing car went very fast and it really felt like a narrow escape.

I rode in a Ford, but there were also test vehicles provided by Mercedes, GM, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai-Kia and Volkswagen. I left wanting this technology in my car as soon as possible. In real life, of course, there may be issues with false positives. If the system warns you too often, you’ll just get annoyed and ignore it. However, the research team at all the vehicle OEMs are working hard to strike the right balance between having enough sensitivity to keep you safe but not so much as to overwhelm you with irrelevant warnings.

Google Maps Mashup using Signal Phase and Timing information (Denso)

This let them show you a real-time map of your location and route, with a green bar along the route based on signal state information. So long as you stay within the green bar, you’re guaranteed (barring last-minute changes) to hit green lights all the way. A great way of adding driver value.

Intersection Collision Avoidance Application (Raytheon)

This was genius. They pointed cameras down all four approaches to an intersection and listened with a WAVE radio. The cameras let them pinpoint the location and direction of every vehicle within range. They then correlated that information with the messages they received, and were able to tell which vehicles were sending Basic Safety Messages and which weren’t. They then (and this is the genius part) generated a safety message for every vehicle that wasn’t generating them. That meant that a fully instrumented vehicle could get a collision warning, even if the vehicle it was going to collide with wasn’t instrumented. This would be an invaluable deployment at known dangerous intersections and would encourage the purchase of aftermarket devices (which in turn would increase the value of those devices away from the intersections, and so on in a virtuous circle.)


There were lots of other great demos from companies like Kapsch, Cohda, Savari and Arada, but space prevents me going into them. I left the show filled with enthusiasm for the innovative energy that’s being brought to the space. I can’t wait to see it happen.

William Whyte

Written by William Whyte

William Whyte is responsible for the strategy and research behind the Security Innovation's activities in vehicular communications, security, and cryptographic research. He is chair of the IEEE 1363 Working Group for new standards in public key cryptography and has served as technical editor of two published IEEE standards, IEEE Std 1363.1-2008 and IEEE Std 1609.2-2006, as well as the ASC X9 standard X9.98.