A Futurist Solution for Self-Driving Cars-Car driving slot reservation

January 30, 2017

Introduction to the Self Driven Car

The self-driven car is a car which doesn’t require a driver; also called as driverless car. The very basic requirement of a self-driven car is that it should be safe for people both inside and outside the car. It should recognize the objects around it (for example; pedestrians, cyclists or other vehicles), take necessary actions in response to the objects detected using technologies like GPS, LIDAR, 3D Digital Map, etc., and be able to drive and reach the destination.

The problem

The two major problems we face in day-to-day life with respect to driving are:
a) Traffic congestion
b) Traffic collision
While all the current driverless cars address the issue of Traffic collision, it is equally important to address the issue of Traffic congestion and its randomness. We may have heard the phrase “Better late than never”, but it is definitely great to be on time than being late.
In highly populated places, the traffic congestion is highly dynamic. If one leaves from his location at a certain time, he can never be sure at what time he will reach the destination. With technologies like Google Maps, it is possible to detect the congestion at certain time and place. But it is not very helpful, because:
● Nothing much can be done when the travelers are already in congestions
● The congestion problem may not appear when traveler leaves his location. But he might come across the situation during his commute.
● There is no early warning system available to convey the travelers of the natural calamities that may occur once they have started their journey.
To summarize, the congestion is mainly due to:
a) Lack of communication between travelers
b) Unpredictable interferences
Thus, a proper solution is required to address the above issues.

Solution

Having thoroughly understood the problem, it is certain that there is a need for a centralized monitoring system which can do the job of traffic controller. This can be achieved with a solution- Car driving slot reservation.
A car should be equipped with appropriate software and required hardware which can communicate to the central server. A person who wants to travel, needs to set the destination and intended destination arrival time. The server comes up with a start time and reserves a slot for the traveler. Everyone who wants to travel needs to do the same. If there is lot of traffic based on the request, the system will give a warning and propose an alternate time.
The idea is that, this might not make things faster, but it can make traffic smooth and predictable, helping the traveler take appropriate decisions.
A separate track can be made available for the driverless cars for better traffic management. The track will have a queue of machines and everyone in the queue will drive as machines that constantly communicate with each other, thus making the travel highly disciplined and systematized. With minimum scope for human error, the degree of prediction of destination arrival time will be very close to 100%.
The self-driven car software will obviously handle corner cases, like extra care to ensure human safety, which results in slow traffic. With the introduction of this method, there will be no ‘element of surprise’ and the car will know in advance when another car is joining the traffic at any given time and position. So, those corner cases will become less frequent, making the travel smoother and ensuring a drastic reduction in the travel time.
Various positions of cars and their communication with the central unit
Figure 1: Various positions of cars and their communication with the central unit
Fig 1 depicts various positions of cars and their communication with the central unit.
● Car 1 and car 3 are already in the lane in their respective slots
● Car 2 has received its traffic slot and is joining the traffic
● Car 4 is idle and ready to initiate the communication for the slot reservation
Currently there is no proper system dedicated to warning cars about the situation. By having a centralized server in place that gets various feedback, it can be programmed to function as a warning system.
The central server also serves as an early warning system for places with severe seasonal weather conditions based on the forecasts.

Typical Software

The software for Car driving slot reservation should be spread across central server, autonomous car and a controller. The software in the central server should be able to process huge amount of data. Its main objective is to:
● Gather the information across the area about position of the cars.
● Gather additional data related to traffic conditions and process it.
● Respond to user requests made by the controller. The server should be able to calculate an alternate route if available.
● Based on the gathered information, calculating the next possible non-congestion period.
● Provide the autonomous car with route map and continuously monitor its position.
● Should be able to estimate the power or fuel requirement for the travel.
The software in the car should be able to send the accurate position of the car to the central server on timely basis, so that the central server can monitor the position of the car. It should also process the instruction from the server as well as user. It should be able to show the current position and estimated arrival time to the traveler.

Hardware Functionality

Let’s assume that fully fledged autonomous cars are equipped with necessary hardware. The emphasis shifts on GPS (or GPS like technology), as this is the only factor which helps to track the position.
For tracking the car, GPS should be installed inside the car. The software inside the car continuously sends the position data to the server, the same is reflected on the controller.
Hardware supports the two way communication from the autonomous car to the central server.
Central servers should be distributed across the country or state for better communication and also the distribution will make the system fail safe, faster and less complex, since it has to operate in real time.

Controller

Controller can be a mobile phone or equivalent to mobile phone, having access to data with which it can communicate with the server and car. It should continuously access the position of the car connected to it along with various statistics like battery power, environment temperature, and humidity. This feedback is also fed to the server from the car.

Working Model

The entire working model is described in the following steps.
1. The traveler intended will request for the slot with the destination and the arrival time.
2. The server checks the list of travelers from its database on the same route. It also considers some other parameters like rainfall, thunderstorm, and unfortunate incidents.
3. If the destination cannot be reached at the particular time due to traffic, the server will respond with alternate possible time. If the slot is free, a valid slot ID is returned. The time is chosen in such a way that, between two cars there is a predetermined time gap.
4. If the traveler is in agreement with the suggested start time returned by the server, the car acknowledges the time and starts automatically on the traveler’s signal.
5. The car continuously monitors for the possible list of issues sent by the server. If there is a major issue, the traveler is notified with the unfortunate event and based on the input from the traveler further decision is taken.
6. If the traveler is late for some reason, after the lapse of a maximum buffer time, the slot allocated will be automatically cancelled. This slot will be used for some other slot requester.
7. The traveler can cancel the travel plan, which will be acknowledged by server and the same is conveyed to car.
8. The server will continuously monitor the position of the cars and other events like natural calamities and unfortunate events.
9. If there are some unfortunate incidents on the way, the feedback is used to make decisions for the next requests.

Conclusion

The problem and the proposed solution mentioned in the blog are based on the assumption that
● Driverless cars are going to be a reality
● There should be separate tracks for the driverless cars
We attempt to foresee the problems and propose a way to tackle them efficiently. Government organizations and car manufacturers must come together to implement the proposed solution.