By Adam Rubenfire, Crain News Service
DEARBORN, Mich. (Aug. 23, 2013) — Ford's latest research project is out of this world.
Really. It's in space.
Ford Motor Co. is teaming up with researchers at the St. Petersburg Polytechnic University in Russia to study communication between robots at the International Space Station and Earth in the hope of developing better systems for connected cars.
The three-year project will observe the communication models of robots in space to understand how vehicles can communicate better with other vehicles, the cloud and with such infrastructure elements as buildings and traffic lights. Such communication can prevent congestion, reduce accidents and deliver messages to drivers.
Researchers also hope to learn more about how emergency vehicle communications can be improved. For example, Ford's research looks at the potential of using vehicle-to-vehicle communication in the event an emergency message can't be sent from a vehicle to the cloud because of network failure. They say a call for help could travel through other vehicles and pieces of infrastructure until a connection to first responders is found.
"The research of fallback options and robust message networks is important," Oleg Gusikhin, technical leader in systems analytics for Ford, said in a statement. "If one network is down, alternatives need to be identified and strengthened to reliably propagate messages between networks."
Many of the technologies being used by robots on the space station—including dedicated short-range communication, cellular LTE wireless broadband and mesh networking—are in development or already being used in cars and other applications on Earth.
After studying the robots, Ford engineers hope to develop an algorithm that could be integrated into connected-car systems that would route messages through the appropriate network based on its urgency. Emergency messages would travel through faster, reliable connections, while entertainment-related messages might use networks with a lower priority.
The robots that the researchers will work with include the JUSTIN Humanoid, EUROBOT Ground Prototype and NASA Robonaut R2.
This report appeared on the website of Automotive News, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.