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The key to intelligent driving, which is synonymous with energy-efficient and safe driving, is forward thinking. To help drivers plan ahead, vehicles from the BMW Group are already fitted with a large number of sensors designed to improve safety, comfort and efficiency. Often, however, these sensors have only a limited predictive capability or “horizon”. “Car-to-x” communication extends this horizon significantly, and will in future allow drivers to “see” long distances ahead, into areas currently hidden from view, and even around not just one but many corners.

Car-to-x communication means electronic networking of vehicles and roadside infrastructure, with the aim of exchanging information directly both between road users and between road users and roadside infrastructure such as traffic lights. Car-to-x communication is a comprehensive communication network which any road user can take part in.

Car-to-x communication usually operates via WLAN or mobile phone connections. For standard automotive application, car-to-x communication at present uses high-speed WLAN networking based on the high-frequency WLAN IEEE802.11p/ G5A standard, which is designed to allow real-time communication. The protocol allows large numbers of participants to communicate simultaneously without interference. At the same time the performance of mobile phone networks is improving steadily, with an increase in bandwidth and a reduction in data lag – the so-called latency times. Therefore, this type of medium, too, is becoming increasingly important for car-to-car communication, for example as a complement to direct communication via WLAN.

Connectivity brings added value.
Integrated and connected vehicle functions are nothing new within the BMW Group. Connectivity for infotainment applications already made its debut in the 1990s with BMW ConnectedDrive. For some years, the focus of development work in the BMW Group has been shifting increasingly towards integrated and connected comfort and, in particular, safety functions. Here, car-to-x communication opens up completely new potential. In the event of a hazard, extensive connectivity between vehicles allows oncoming and following traffic to be given advance warning of potential dangers, and therefore to react appropriately and in good time. But warnings are only one possible use of this communication platform. Since infrastructure data, too – for example about traffic light phases – can be integrated into this communication system, information is available which allows drivers to easily adapt their driving style for even greater efficiency, thereby significantly reducing vehicle emissions. This technology therefore offers new solutions not only for proactive safety and accident prevention but also for intelligent energy management.

“The more information I have about the rest of my journey – for example, if I know in advance when traffic lights will change, or if I know that an accident has just happened further along the route – the more promptly I can react, which means I have less stress and can either avoid hazardous situations altogether or at least reduce the risk.” (Karl-Ernst Steinberg, Head of Information and Communication Technologies at BMW Group Research and Technology).

In combination with existing vehicle sensors, car-to-x communication provides a valuable starting point or enhancement for a wide range of BMW ConnectedDrive driver assistance and information systems of the future. These technologies, combined with the driver’s own input, create an extremely high-performance macrosystem capable of ensuring a safe and efficient journey from start to finish.

BMW Motorrad ConnectedRide: active protection for motorcyclists as well.
The BMW Group’s ongoing efforts to achieve greater road safety take all road user groups into account. In addition to applications for vehicles of the BMW Group and for protection of pedestrians or cyclists, motorcyclists are a further group whose integration into the car-to-x communication platform is an important priority for BMW. BMW Motorrad ConnectedRide – the motorcycle equivalent of BMW ConnectedDrive – is looking to use car-to-x communication, in addition to handling control systems, driver assistance systems and a motorcycle emergency call function, in order to improve safety for motorcyclists. Motorcyclists face different dangers on the road from car drivers. Certain situations, such as fog, slippery roads or heavy precipitation, are much more of a challenge for these road users than for car drivers. What’s more, “single-track” vehicles like motorcycles, with their narrower silhouette, are unfortunately often more easily overlooked.

There are therefore big benefits for motorcyclists in having advance information about special situations. Often, cars play a pivotal role in this system as the original source of the warnings. For example, activation of car fog lamps or the highest wiper setting, or DSC intervention in an otherwise normal driving situation, may indicate adverse conditions in a certain area. This information is then supplied to the motorcycle, keeping the rider promptly and fully informed.

Car-to-x research of value only with industry collaboration.
Car-to-x communication has been an important topic within the BMW Group for almost ten years. But the BMW Group’s research is not carried out in isolation. After all, this is a field where teamwork between as many vehicle manufacturers as possible is vital. For example, the BMW Group was one of the first carmakers to join the “Car-2-Car Communication Consortium”. Founded in 2003 by a number of European car manufacturers, this consortium is researching potential applications and looking into a harmonised standard for transnational vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication. That’s because this technology can only develop its full potential with a critical mass of participants: the greater the number of vehicles integrated into the system, the greater the amount of data that can be made available and used, and the greater the safety benefits.

The BMW Group is