Trafflack

Matt Figueroa (CE) examines his team’s Trafflack display on ECE Day.

Matt Figueroa (CE) examines his team’s Trafflack display on ECE Day.

What if cars could talk to each other?

That is to say, what if they could communicate with each other, letting their drivers know about upcoming traffic or icy roads?

That was the idea behind Trafflack, the senior project of Matt Figueroa (CE), Aaron Ganick (EE), Jonathan Lobo (EE), Travis Rich (EE) and Peter Schimitsch (CE).

Working with Professor Thomas Little, Team Trafflack created an in-car observation and collaborative system that lets vehicles exchange valuable information that can cause a driver’s experience to be more safe and convenient.

This transceiver stack, which consists of a transmitter board, focusing lens and receiver board, enabled the cars to talk to each other.

This transceiver stack, which consists of a transmitter board, focusing lens and receiver board, enabled the cars to talk to each other.

As opposed to radio frequency (RF) communication, which can be unreliable during traffic jams or any other time when there is a high density of cars in one area, the seniors decided to use light from headlights and tail lights to enable the cars’ “conversations.” The plan came about after several of them worked together in the Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center.

“We had made a light bulb that could essentially talk,” Rich said. “From there we thought, why couldn’t we use that same technology to make cars communicate?”

They used four transceivers per car, or node, and matching software that could collect data not just from the car immediately in front but from cars down the road, too.

Their hard work paid off. Not only did the team win at ECE Day, they also took away the MobiSys 2010 Best Poster award in San Francisco.