back to article White Van Man could become a rolling radio relay

The idea that cars should share data among each other to automate some aspects of driving and make more efficient use of roads is not new. But researchers from the Universidade do Porto and Carnegie Mellon University have noted an important impediment to its adoption: cars are smaller than other vehicles – like lorries and …


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  1. Esskay

    Better reception?

    Finally a reason to *want* the white van to sit 5cm off your bumper.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shouldn't this be automatic?

    Dynamic mesh networks should be able to tolerate such bad links, and route around them. Or am I missing something?

    1. Some Beggar

      Re: Shouldn't this be automatic?

      The experiments are looking at the best algorithms to route around the network. Road traffic is not particularly mesh-like - it typically runs in lines rather than being spread randomly in space, and members of the network might physically block other connections - so conventional algorithms for routing are unlikely to be the most efficient.

  3. Crazy Operations Guy

    Why bother putting the relays on vehicles?

    Why not just put relays on lampposts? It would be much easier than convincing companies to start putting antennas and equipment on their roofs just to benefit others. And I would trust the road crews a little more than some random 18-wheeler to keep the relays working properly.

    Lampposts are the highest objects on the road, and thus a very large area of reception; they already have electricity going to them; and you could still reap the benefits of having such a network when only one car is on the road.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Why bother putting the relays on vehicles?


      Although there are many roads with no lamp posts.

      I'm also rather confused about what this could be for - the roads that are congested enough for this to work are within range of mobile phone towers, and the ones that aren't in range of mobile phone towers aren't busy enough for it to work.

    2. Conor Turton

      Re: Why bother putting the relays on vehicles?

      Exactly. I have a VHF repeater on a tower on a very high hill. I can talk through that repeater from 30 miles away with a 5 watt handheld radio using the stock rubber duck antenna. That repeater which itself is using only 5 watts can be heard from nearly 60 miles away.

      1. Some Beggar

        Re: Why bother putting the relays on vehicles?

        5 watts? These things operate at a few tens of milliwatts.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why bother putting the relays on vehicles?

      Costs, lack of lampposts and maintenance.

      Every lamppost would need one or lampposts would have to be installed and have power run to them. This network would have to be maintained and serviced.

      By installing them on the vehicles you automatically have them where they are needed. They are powered by the vehicle and they can be maintained as part of the annual service of the vehicle.

      More importantly (for the politician), it is the motorist who would pay for it as part of the vehicle cost and maintenance.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Why bother putting the relays on vehicles?

        "Costs, lack of lampposts and maintenance."

        Close, but no cigar. The reason for building relays into vehicle instead of by the roadside is related to cost, but not in the way you think.

        Putting relays on lamposts or other "street furniture" means it's a Govt infrastructure project which has to paid for out of the Govt Budget, ie our taxes. Placing the relays into vehicles as part of the "build", probably mandated by Govt. means the driver or company has paid for it..

        In the long run, "we" pay for it anyway, no matter how it's done, but by placing the relays in the vehicles, Govt can point at a "clean" balance sheet and tell the voters that it was "free".

    4. Some Beggar

      Re: Why bother putting the relays on vehicles?

      They're looking at an ad hoc mesh network that passes information related to traffic by making use of the vehicles that form that traffic.

      You appear to be looking for a solution to a completely different problem. In fact, I'm not even sure what problem it is that your solution is supposed to be addressing.

    5. kevjs

      Re: Why bother putting the relays on vehicles?

      Round here with the council turning lights off overnight I can hardly see them willing to pay a few extra quid for the electric for a network relay... They would probably wire it up so it's only one when it's dark and before midnight...

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why bother putting the relays on vehicles?

      Good to see that the boffins spotted that high vehicles got in the way - I wonder how much that nugget of rocket science cost?

      But in the unlikely scenario that the costs of this are less than the benefits, surely the obvious solution is surely to go under, not over, and bounce the radio signal off the road, using low mounted antennae?

      1. Some Beggar

        Re: Why bother putting the relays on vehicles?


        Genius. Now all we need to do is re-surface all the roads in Europe with something that reflects low-power gigahertz radio. Herp diddly derp derp.

  4. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    If I operated a fleet of trucks

    What's in it for me?

    1. Lusty

      Re: If I operated a fleet of trucks

      "What's in it for me?"

      Faster delivery and lower fuel consumption leading to higher profits. Congestion costs quite a lot for these companies so they would probably be more than happy to fit equipment to prevent it.

  5. Ole Juul

    Article doesn't say what for

    The idea that cars should share data among each other to automate some aspects of driving and make more efficient use of roads is not new.

    Radio controlled roads are common here. There are signs posting the relevant frequency, and you need to keep your ear to the radio so as to avoid being run over by a loaded tandem logging truck barrelling down a one lane road with no ability to stop for you. The signs constitute legal warning to that effect. That one is a no-brainer, but what does one need to know from another vehicle in the city?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Article doesn't say what for

      Its for the future developing 6GHz ITS = intelligent transport system which will (eventually) be mandated for many things:

      road pricing: - "Route A will be £3 now or £1.50 in 1 hours time", "optional Route B will be 75 pence but will take you 1 hour longer" (with hard realtime traffic data)

      safety: "a car thirty vehicles ahead of you has just braked and swerved to the right to avoid something in the road", your car would get this data rippled back thru the stack and be ready to avoid the hole/moose/cat

      infotainment: the backhaul at 60GHz iirc would enable SIRI style internet/sms/email in the car and probably enough bandwidth to entertain the kids with cartoon channel in the back seat.

    2. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: Article doesn't say what for

      what does one need to know from another vehicle in the city?

      If it's a Google Streetview car so you get time to comb your hair/pull down trousers/plan a prank?

  6. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    I presume..

    .. similar challenges exist to what used to be MANET (Mobile Ad hoc NETwork): the mobile node nearest to the mesh exit point gets hit by all the traffic. At least they won't have the battery issue that the portable version of this suffered (exit nodes gets drained first if the majority of the traffic is outside the mesh).

    On the plus side, it means they don't need to start from scratch, quite a lot of the thinking has already been done.

    1. zaax

      Re: I presume..

      Other than it will flatten your car battery. I don't see LGV owners even thinking in giving the opposition a hand.

      Anyway we have a perfectly good mobile data system at present if it would be implemented correctly by the mobile phone operators ie more aerials.

  7. Conor Turton

    Nothing to see here...

    So they've discovered what amateur radio users and broadcasters have known for nearly a century? Why the hell did they think that repeaters and TV transmitters are put up on the highest hills in an area?

    And how much money did they spend investigating something they could've got the answer for by walking into their local amateur radio club and asking even a newly qualified amateur?

    1. Robert Grant
      Thumb Down

      Re: Nothing to see here...

      I think you've only picked up on the simplest concept outlined in the article. Might I recommend a re-read?

  8. Michael 28

    Traffic jam or lan party?

    Who's going to be the first to share copyrighted pr0n on the M25?

  9. John 62

    I can't be the only one

    who wanted to know about a resurrected TVR releasing a new model.

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