Cars Talk to Cars on the Autobahn

When my car can talk to your car, and yours can talk to the next, they’ll all be able to substitute shared data for the one thing robots lack: intuition.

Such talkativeness will allow cars to space themselves out, make room for merging vehicles, and vary their speed without setting off bothersome ripple effects in the traffic behind. Best of all, it will let robocars drive (or appear to drive) a bit more boldly: A well-informed car can pass a semi with such confidence that a human observer might almost mistake it for foolhardiness.

Real-time communications are a prerequisite, and this week the proof was offered in Germany. “This is the first demonstration of car-to-car communication via a high-speed cellular connection with near-5G performance,” Alexander Dobrindt, Germany’s minister of transport and infrastructure, said in a statement. The experiment was conducted on the recently inaugurated Digital A9 Motorway Testbed, a segment of an autobahn in Bavaria, southern Germany.

There are other ways of wirelessly linking cars, but cellular networks are particularly attractive because they exist already and don’t require a “handshake”—the time-hogging ritual by which two computers exchange credentials. The highway testbed worked on regular LTE service from Deutsche Telekom,…[Read more]