Autonomous testing of the new Advanced Connected Vehicles Victoria (ACV2) platform.

Aussie drivers are set to be warned when cars are about to run red lights, or pedestrians cross the road, as Lexus and Telstra trial connected cars on Victorian roads.

Lexus has fitted two RX450h F Sport hybrid models (above) with on-dash displays, linked to optimised Telstra 4G modems in the boot, as part of a two-year $3.5 million trial in conjunction with VicRoads and the Transport Accident Commission.

The trial in central Melbourne and highways around Geelong will commence later this year, having already completed six months of trials on Lexus' Altona test track.

Powered by the new Advanced Connected Vehicles Victoria (ACV2) platform, the technology takes advantage of vehicle-to-everything (V2X) messaging designed to link cars to the internet of things. It is able to send messages between cars in 40 milliseconds across Telstra's 4G mobile network, employing Quality of Service to take priority over other network traffic, and potentially even faster if the system eventually takes advantage of Telstra's new 5G network.

Rather than relying on vehicles talking directly to nearby traffic cameras, ACV2 uses artificial intelligence to study the live feed from VicRoad's traffic camera network in the cloud. It sends a message to approaching cars when it sees a potential hazard at an intersection, such as a car about to run a red light or a pedestrian hampering a right-hand turn.

This approach makes it faster and cheaper to roll out ACV2, as opposed to upgrading traffic lights across the state to perform onboard video processing and send warnings directly to approaching cars.

As a result, the technology could potentially be rolled out across Telstra's entire 4G mobile network, throughout Victoria and also interstate if the system can tap into the live camera feeds from the various state roads authorities.

Reach and resolution
While Telstra continues to extend the reach of its 4G network, there are still areas of the country which it can not reach. The roll-out will also be hampered by the fact that some traffic cameras may not offer sharp enough resolution for the video processing to accurately identify potential hazards.

Video processing aside, the trial will also provide drivers with information regarding the speed limit, advisories on sharp turns, changing weather conditions or congestion due to slow or stalled cars. It can also warn drivers when a car ahead brakes suddenly, although this feature requires both cars to be equipped with the technology.

"These new connected technologies supplement the comprehensive advanced safety equipment already fitted to the two Lexus RX 450h F Sport SUVs and every Lexus vehicle, expanding the range of driver alerts that can save lives as part of the company's global commitment and dedication to safety first," says Lexus Australia chief executive Scott Thompson.

Lexus chief executive Scott Thompson

Dash warning or autonomous action?
During the trial ACV2 will only issue warnings to drivers via an on-dash screen, but it could eventually be linked to a car's autonomous emergency braking system. ACV2 can also work in conjunction with onboard cameras and other sensors built into autonomous vehicles.

The technology relies on the Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS) messaging platform – used by many new vehicles to communicate with the internet and each other, as well as smart roadside devices such as traffic lights and road signs.

For now, ACV2 vehicles can only communicate via the cloud and Telstra's 4G network, although it has the ability to add support for direct point-to-point communications in the future.

Lexus plans to incorporate Telstra 4G modems and ACV2 alerts into new vehicles, but does not have a date as to when they will roll off the production line or when ACV2 will be available to the general public.

There is also the potential for aftermarket ACV2 units, offering basic functionality such alerting drivers to hazards but not sharing information such as when the driver slams on the brakes. Adam Turner