With the rapid advancement of electronics, automobiles are undergoing a major "metamorphosis. "
Sensor and networking technologies will be indispensable for the future automotive industry.
Information technology is the key to reducing the negative impact of motoring, such as CO2 emissions, and transforming automotive mobility into something which brings about positive changes in society.
Intelligent transport systems (ITS) represent a solution to shaping such an automotive future. As a supplier of electronic components, Murata is expected to play an increasingly important role in further development of ITS technology.
Ongoing Innovation of Engine Technology: Energy Diversification and Saving Are the Key Challenges
Rapid innovation has been taking place in power plant technologies. In addition to the traditional combustion engine, we now have hybrid and electric drive systems. By 2015, automakers will launch fuel cell vehicles. There has been an increasing diversification of energy sources that are used to drive automobiles. The world's auto fleet surpassed 1 billion vehicles in 2010. Some experts forecast that the world's population will increase from 7 billion in 2011 to 9.2 billion by 2050, driven mainly by developing countries. The auto fleet grows with the increase in population. It will be necessary to diversify primary energy sources to fulfill the increasing demand for energy. Natural gas and electricity are two promising energy sources for vehicles. To generate electricity, we could use nuclear power. We would even use nuclear fusion in the far future.
On the other hand, we have been making remarkable progress in energy-saving technology. The average Japanese consumes half as much energy as his or her counterpart in the U.S.A. Japanese products are more energy-efficient than foreign products, partly because Japan has limited natural resources and suffers from high costs. This holds true for automobiles. Japanese automakers have developed impressively fuel-efficient vehicles. Further development of information and communication technology (ICT) will enable further energy savings in the future. Combining it with intelligent transport systems (ITS) would bring about a dramatic change in mobility.
Let Your Car Do What She Can: Autonomous Driving Is Now a Realistic Possibility
After the innovation of power plants, energy diversification, and energy saving, comes dynamic traffic management.
ITS is aimed at resolving traffic problems by use of information and communication technology and electronic control technology, thereby improving our quality of life and promoting economic development. It is now being developed in three major regions: Asia-Pacific, the Americas, and Europe. ITS is being developed in 3 major areas on a global basis. The first is advanced driving assistance systems (autonomous driving) . Research in this area has already advanced to some extent. At the 20th ITS World Congress Tokyo 2013 in autumn, participants will be able to actually experience this technology.
Autonomous driving is often misunderstood as fully automatic driving with no need for the driver's intervention. It is nothing like that. Rather, the driver always has the final responsibility. Autonomous driving aims to expand the scope of functionality that can be controlled automatically to provide a mobility that is safe, comfortable and friendly to all road users. One such automatic function is the exchange of information with the vehicle in front and other vehicles around your vehicle. For example, it warns the vehicle behind you when you brake your vehicle. Another function is interaction between the vehicle and the road infrastructure. If the system recognizes how sharply the bend ahead is curved and at which speed it can best be negotiated, it can automatically slow down the car in the best possible manner before entering the bend. At motorway junctions, the system recognizes the directions in which and speeds at which merging vehicles are approaching, and it decides whether to escape to the passing lane or slow down.
Japan already operates the world's most advanced system of this kind. The driving safety support system (DSSS) uses as many as 1,600 ITS spots installed along motorways to provide assistance to ensure safety at junctions.
Cities Will Replace Nations as Major Players in Addressing Environmental Problems, Competing in Reduction of CO2 Emissions
The second major area of ITS is reducing CO2 emissions. Since the turn of the century, Japan and Europe have in fact reduced their CO2 emissions despite an increase in the global figure. But again, we cannot know which cities and regions have made the greatest contributions. A technology to visualize these variations will soon be available. It uses information about the driving mode of each vehicle driving in each road section in the region to calculate its CO2 emission and adds up these figures to obtain total CO2 emissions.
To reduce CO2 emissions, Japanese local governments encourage drivers to use an ecological driving style and introduce electric and hybrid vehicles for public uses. Visualization of CO2 emissions will allow cities and regions to compete with each other in their efforts. It will make it possible to address smaller areas in implementing solutions and thereby produce greater effect. Spreading and networking these initiatives worldwide will bring about great benefits. I am convinced this will be a major challenge for the ITS World Congress from this point on.
As a solution to road accidents, congestions, and environmental problems, this so-called next-generation road service will provide a networking of people, vehicles, and roads. ITS Spots are roadside communication beacons for an advanced combination of navigation and electronic toll collection (ETC) . They establish high-speed high-capacity communication links with on-board ITS Spot-compatible navigation systems, providing a range of services such as wide-area traffic messages and images. Japan is the global leader in this area, with as many as 1,600 ITS Spots already available, most of them installed on motorways. One of their functions, "Dynamic Route Guidance," uses information on 1,000 km of congestions collected by ITS Spots to recommend the fastest route to your destination. It also offers information on obstacles lying on the road surface ahead and rear ends of relevant congestions as well as emergency messages in the event of a disaster. The interactive communication system uses the 5.8 GHz band, i.e ., the same waves that have been employed for the conventional electronic toll collection system.