Cars of the future are going to be chatty as hell. And it’s not like they don’t already communicate in little ways, sending data to Google Maps, Waze and the like to inform each other (and us dumb meat sacks) of traffic patterns, obstructions and other annoyances. Things are only going to continue in that direction — especially as cars need each other more and us, less. I imagine one day they’ll say mean things about us behind our backs in their own secret language.
But that’s in the far off future. In the much more immediate future, Mercedes-Benz is going to use this technology so that its products can warn each other about potholes. A new feature coming to the company’s Car-to-X suite will allow new C-Class, S-Class and EQS models to register potholes and speed bumps via their suspension control units, then input that data into the cloud where it’ll be used to alert Mercedes drivers in the vicinity. Mercedes vehicles built from 2016 onward will relay these warnings about 10 seconds before they’re due to reach the hazard in question.
This isn’t a groundbreaking new idea — manufacturers and OEMs have been discussing it for years, regularly bringing up potholes as one of the frustrations of modern driving that vehicle-to-vehicle communication could mitigate. Still, nobody’s really put it into practice yet, and perhaps to some degree that’s down to data privacy concerns.
Security matters aside, you’d expect a company in Mercedes’ position to be all possessive and proprietary about this stuff, rather than sharing the data in a manner where it could benefit drivers of all vehicles. It’s a promising idea that could do a lot of good, but it’s crying out for an open platform.
Imagine if it was democratized? Making such data freely available could spare motorists flat tires, unnecessary repair bills and even the occasional accident. It would also save Mercedes owners money in another sense, because wouldn’t you know the company has the gall to charge for these alerts. From the press release:
In order to use the “Car-to-X” service, the customer must have a Mercedes me connect account and have activated the service. Only then are data registered in the vehicle, and the vehicle-related Car-to-X data are sent to the backend, where they are anonymised. The service is available free of charge for the first three years, and can then be renewed on payment of a fee. Mercedes-Benz drivers can easily activate or deactivate the service via the user account in the Mercedes me Portal or in the Mercedes me App. This is where they can also object to the transfer of data.
The system can already do more than alert drivers to potholes — it can also share knowledge of accidents, broken-down vehicles and conditions like fog and heavy rain. Honestly, most of the other bits of information relayed either strike me as obvious or not extremely useful. But I’d venture to guess few would complain to know about potholes in their path before they hit them. This is one of those rare examples of Good Tech coming to modern cars everyone should be able to get behind, in theory.