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Autonomous Cars and Autonomous Networks — Not Quite?

Posted by Doug Kuntz on Jun 3, 2020 8:53:33 AM

What an Intelligent Driver Assistance System and Network Monitoring Have in Common.

Right before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, I traveled to Portland, Oregon to attend the ITA Showcase Northwest Telecommunications Trade Show. I arrived during the weekend so I could schedule meetings first thing Monday morning with clients in the Portland area. With this being my first time to Oregon, I was excited about being able to explore the area on Sunday before I would have to go to work.

I typically use Uber/Lyft to get to and from the conferences, but this time, I needed a rental car to see clients on Monday and Tuesday before the show. The rental car company provided me with a 2019 Nissan Altima, which the agent informed me had CarPlay. If you have ever used CarPlay, you understand how nice this feature is when linked with Google Maps on your smartphone and you’re in an unfamiliar place. It’s Google Maps on steroids! It duplicates your cell phone’s display on a large LCD screen on the dash and uses the car’s audio to guide you along your route.

My first exploration was to visit the Cascade Locks on the Columbia River West of Portland. Not long after getting on the road, I experienced a vibration in the steering wheel. Not a vibration that something was mechanically wrong, but more of a warning coming from the car. After it happened a second time, I realized if I got too close to either white line, the car was telling me to drive in the middle of the lane, not on the edge.

Now comfortable that there wasn’t something wrong and the car was equipped with an Intelligent Driver Assistance System (I-DAS), I figured I should test just how intelligent it was. Since I had about 20 miles to travel and traffic wasn’t very busy, I began experimenting with the car. After all, I’m kind of a techy guy and that’s what I do. After my amusement wore off, I decided to set the cruise and get comfortable.

Not familiar with how to activate it, I saw an icon on the steering wheel next to the cruise controls that had a little blue car with blue wireless emblems on it. I pushed the strange little button and to my amazement, the cruise was activated. Once activated, if I drifted a little off center, instead of vibrating the steering wheel, the car would auto correct my driving by turning the wheel as needed by itself. I thought to myself, I wonder if the car will drive itself, so I decided I had better test it, too.

I loosely held onto the steering wheel to see how far the car would drive itself and was impressed. I thought to myself, if this is an autonomous car, why didn’t the guy tell me at the rental car company? Satisfied that the car would literally drive itself while my hands were loosely on the steering wheel, I decided to take my testing to the next level. This time, I was going to take my hands off the wheel but keep them close enough to recover from any issues that might arise. Success! The car was driving itself without my hands on the wheel. If I approached another vehicle, it even slowed down automatically.

After about 30 seconds without my hands on the wheel, came a warning. First, a beep and a red exclamation point appeared on the dash to alert me something was wrong. I decided to continue my testing by refusing to take a hold of the wheel to see how long this could go on. I soon heard two beeps and then three. As the beeps became more frequent and louder, I resisted to comply, and after about 5 – 10 seconds of alerts and I wasn’t responding, the car surged the brakes as in an effort to wake me up.

It scared me and I quickly grabbed the wheel. Testing was complete! I now knew my car wasn’t 100% autonomous but knew my next vehicle will have these same driver assist features.

Throughout my trip and testing the technology several times, I thought to myself, the driver assist feature on my rental car was just like the 24x7x365 network monitoring Nex-Tech has been providing other carriers for more than a decade. We are essentially that autonomous network driver for carriers that don’t have the manpower or time to analyze the noise or just want a good night’s sleep, not bothered with nuisance alarms.

If you would like eyes on your network 24x7x365 from a carrier that has been assisting other carriers for more than a decade, so your engineers can rest at night, or if you are interested in learning how we can assist with all the alerts in your network, please contact Doug Kuntz, Carrier Access Manager, at 785-754-3100 or via email at dkuntz@nex-tech.com.

Topics: Network Monitoring, Carrier, NOC, CALEA