It’s been a long wait – although perhaps in the context of patent applications relatively fast – but Eloy’s first patent has been granted. This blog explores some of our background work and what it means going forward.
There are lots of ways to communicate to vehicle occupants but a key area for us is visual and audio messages that a vehicle occupant may want to receive during their journey. These may be navigation instructions that we follow to get to our destinations, or they could sit adjacent to navigation and be similar to the information provided to drivers by physical roadside signs, such as speed limits or road hazard alerts. The communications could also be more heavily tailored towards general information, such as parking availability, toll prices, or rest area information, and advertisements.
The communications I am referring to are not generated by the vehicle itself, such as from the speedometer. Instead, they are provided to the vehicle by external sources and databases. The key problem that is emerging is managing this information to ensure it is delivered in a concise and clear manner so that vehicle occupants have the best chance of understanding what is being communicated to them.
We see many situations where clashes of information could occur. This isn’t an exhaustive list but outlines some situations where they may occur:
1. SatNav turn instructions at a similar time to a road hazard alert
2. 2 different road hazard alerts for 2 different issues
3. 2 or more road hazard alerts generated by 2 or more organisations
4. 2 or more competing advertisements
5. An in-car system to manage the flow of traffic out of a car park
Let’s spend a little time exploring each of these
As we drive with a SatNav, we will get various manouevre instructions. An example is “turn right in 50 metres”. This will be triggered at almost exactly 50 metres before the turning because otherwise the driver will get the instruction too early or too late.
Now if a road hazard happens to be near that right hand turning, for example roadworks, flood, temporary traffic signals, a wrong way driver, or a stranded vehicle, information about that hazard may need to be provided to the driver in vehicle.
Both the right turn and the road hazard are important pieces of information but risk being presented at a similar time. The driver may then miss their turn or the alert about the road hazard is not provided in enough time. Or both.
There are several ways this could be addressed but the key considerations are how and when the messages are triggered to the driver and the method to identify and then resolve the conflict risk. One option is that the communication criteria for the road hazard alert is adjusted so that it is provided much earlier than the indication to turn right.
Road hazard alerts are not isolated. We could easily have several incidents happening at the same time, for example a wrong way driver around road works. Or a road accident near roadworks. Information about both road hazards are important but presenting both at the same time will cause confusion for vehicle occupants.
To resolve this, some form of priority may be required. Then one or both of the road hazard alerts will need adjustment, for example by changing the location of where they are triggered. In the wrong way driver example, information about the road works is likely to have a lower priority than the safety critical wrong way driver alert. Therefore the roadworks warning may have to be communicated earlier. Of course, this is also likely to vary over time and require constant updating and assessment.
It is likely that several organisations will want to communicate to drivers at the same time. Navigation providers and transport authorities are clear examples but private sector data providers or other commercial organisations such as car parks or motorway/freeway rest areas may also want to communicate to drivers and occupants in their vehicles.
This poses the risk of duplication. Therefore methods to identify duplicates and remove them is really important.
Advertisements would be directed at passengers rather than drivers, and although in-vehicle advertising is in its infancy, with self-driving vehicles on the horizon such as a robotaxi or bus it is likely to become more prevalent.
Advertisements may need to be location triggered or several advertisers may want to advertise to vehicle occupants at a similar time based on their demographics. It makes sense for these adverts to have a location bias - for example “restaurant on left”. Destinations will want to highlight that vehicle occupants have arrived too - for example “Welcome to the Eloy Stadium, entrance ahead on the right”.
These communications will themselves need to have priority, which could be influenced by external price bidding. They may also have safety or other criteria to determine what gets shown or the sequence in which they are provided.
I expect most readers will have seen our work on multi-vehicle coordination, where additional communications are made to drivers which orchestrate the movement of the vehicles to reduce congestion and journey times. This is achieved with in-vehicle communications such as “stop” or “go”, akin to a virtual traffic signal system within the car.
Such a system will have a direct clash risk with the SatNav and any other type of communication but we must also consider how the system is developed: Each of the locations where virtual traffic signals could be placed needs a method to check if they will clash and how the clashes can be avoided. This ongoing management of driver communication needs a system to ensure the communication is provided in a timely and concise manner.
Our technology enables multiple messages and signs to be displayed without conflicts in prioritised sequence and therefore can materially advance the development of the systems mentioned above.
We see a wide range of scenarios where our technology can apply to the road network in the future. Due to Eloy’s ability to set up a rapid and reliable research and development programme, so we could test many technologies in cars at relatively low cost and in short timeframes, we were able to identify and then develop methods for these risks.
We see certain use cases having far higher complexity, with event traffic management to sports stadiums needing robust methods of communication management in most circumstances.
We’re excited with our technology and intellectual property to date and what it will deliver to people in the future.