Car-to-X communication, or communication between cars and surrounding infrastructure, is being tested to support maintenance operations in the Zollernalb district of Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

This pilot program utilizes data gathered by Mercedes-Benz vehicles to direct road maintenance depots to respond to surface ice and snow on roadways. 

"Thanks to seamless integration of the car-to-X system into the vehicle systems, Mercedes-Benz passenger cars can automatically detect different hazards such as slippery roads," says Daimler's Michael Hafner.

When slippery roadways trigger a vehicle's traction or stability control systems, those activations are communicated to the depots, which can then dispatch maintenance crews to treat surfaces and/or remove snow. 

This technology has huge implications for the future of autonomy. One of the most significant barriers to the proliferation of self-driving cars is their inability to handle adverse conditions, whether that means identifying unanticipated obstacles or simply trying to identify and follow lanes when markings are obscured by accumulated snow, leaves, or standing water. 

Anonymous data collected from vehicles on the road can be used to paint a picture of surface conditions, traffic congestion, and other important contributors of safe and efficient driving. Combined with mapped and modeled road networks, this real-time data set will help in-vehicle artificial intelligence make educational decisions regarding navigation, speed, and following distances. 

In these still-early stages, the technology will be made to help humans drive more safely and operate more efficiently. Basic car-to-X capability already exists in Mercedes' consumer vehicles and can be activated by owners with a Mercedes me connect subscription. 

Car-to-X (or vehicle-to-X) is only half of the equation when it comes to future-proofing. The next step is to incorporate vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V)communication, allowing cars to directly transmit information regarding hazards and other road conditions to each other directly.

This technology also has significant promise when it comes to collision prevention, effectively allowing cars to "see" much farther ahead than human drivers can.