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Monday, September 8, 2014

Local company on front line of self-driving cars

The Windsor Star/Grace Macaluso

Windsor-based ARADA Systems is on the threshold of the next frontier in wireless technology that is transforming both the automotive and transportation industries.

It is among the companies exhibiting cutting-edge technology at the 21st annual Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress, which kicked off Sunday at Detroit’s Cobo Centre. The five-day event brings together 10,000 industry professionals from about 60 countries, including heads of automakers, government officials and technology companies. They will demonstrate the latest industry advances, and discuss government policies, safety issues and ideas about how to move the industry toward self-driving vehicles that communicate with each other and their surroundings.

“This conference, especially being in Detroit, is the watershed moment for this technology,” said Praveen Singh, president and chief operating officer of ARADA Systems, a California-based company which moved its headquarters last year to Windsor. “This technology has been around for 14 or 15 years, and now it’s like the perfect storm. The carmakers are finally getting on this technology, U.S. government is closer to mandating this technology. That puts pressure on everybody.”

ARADA is developing next-generation wireless technology which will provide real-time communication between vehicles and roadside access points for such things as safety services, commerce transactions and toll collection. Among the applications are those which would help prevent impending collisions at a blind intersection, a vehicle changing lanes in another vehicle’s blind spot and a rear-end collision with a stopped vehicle. It also is currently participating in a U.S. Department of Transportation safety study looking at vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure wireless communications systems.

In conjunction with the conference, ARADA will be demonstrating its vehicle-to-infrastructure devices, which have been installed on traffic light poles at intersections in Detroit’s downtown core through to Belle Isle.

“We’ll be showing people that by simply running the app, it will tell you things like what your speed should be if you want to make the next green light. Roadside units also can help alert drivers of changing or dangerous  road conditions, he added.

During the conference’s opening ceremonies, General Motors CEO Mary Barra announced that the 2017 Cadillac CTS will be the automaker’s first vehicle-to-vehicle connected car. GM also said that it is partnering with Ford Motor Co., the University of Michigan and the Michigan Department of Transportation to 192 kilometres of Detroit-area highway with cameras and sensors to collect data that can be sent to cars with vehicle-to-vehicle capabilities.

“When cars can talk to each other, we will save lives, time and money,” said Barra. “Vehicle-to-vehicle technology is a game changer.”

However, she said commercializing a fully automated vehicle may take until the next decade.

Singh said he is hopeful ARADA will play a key role in the projects announced by Barra.

“We are a player,” he said. “We believe we will be successful because of our price points and superior technology.”

Rakesh Naidu, of the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation, said the conference offers worldwide exposure for ARADA’s technology as well as the Windsor-Essex region. “This technology is changing vehicles and how they will drive. It’s a big deal for us.”

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