Harnessing the data from our cars

Did you know that your car is a source of valuable data? Many vehicles are equipped with sensors, cameras and radars. Like invisible eyes, they survey the pressure of your tires, the environment around the vehicle, the condition of the roadway. More and more manufacturers are also experimenting with technologies that allow cars to communicate with each other about their position, speed and direction, thereby predicting the risk of collision.

Cars could become monitors for traffic and road conditions.

This information is currently used by vehicle drivers, but the researchers dream of a computing cloud in which data from all cars could be exploited, for example, by Transports Québec and municipal authorities. According to Soumaya Cherkaoui, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Université de Sherbrooke, cars could become monitors for traffic and road conditions. For example, engineers could identify potholes through sensors that record each car's acceleration and vibration data.  But how do we get millions of cars communicating in an efficient manner?

The team at INTERLAB research laboratory directed by Soumaya Cherkaoui is developing tools—communication standards and protocols, mathematical algorithms—for sharing data through local networks integrated into each car. The researchers are focusing on dedicated short-range communication, which is expected to become more prevalent in smart vehicles. As this type of wireless communication does not use the cellular network, it is not subject to user fees. It is now a matter of adapting this technology to collect useful data without jeopardizing security.

At present, not all vehicles produce data. However, as the vehicle fleet is renewed every ten years and there are more and more smart cars on the road, Professor Cherkaoui believes that we need to learn how to make use of this wealth of information that is growing every day.