Most of the U.S. has cell phone coverage. The signals may not always be five bars, but the majority of the country has service. That’s not the case in Australia, where more than 65 percent of the country has no cell phone signal at all. Fortunately, there’s a vehicle-based emergency for people who live in one 50,000 square kilometer area (about 19,300 square miles), which is approximately the size of the states of Vermont and New Hampshire combined. In that area they’re using Toyota Landcruisers as mobile cell towers, as reported in TruckYeah.
The Toyota Land Cruiser Emergency Network, which was started as a test in 2015, takes advantage of the near ubiquity of the rugged Toyota SUVs. According to Australian Toyota National Marketing manager Brad Cramb, Australia is the biggest market in the world for Land Cruisers. Cramb said that Land Cruisers have 90 percent market share in the area they are testing. Toyota is running this test in conjunction with Saatchi and Saatchi Australia and Flinders University in Adelaide. The test area represents about 1 percent of the land in Australia without cell phone service.
Here’s how it works. When someone makes an emergency call the signal is picked up by a Land Cruiser in range, which is typically about 15 miles. The signal is then passed on to the next Land Cruiser. They continue to pass the signal from vehicle to vehicle until it reaches an emergency response station which can dispatch help. In one implementation concept, a fleet of Land Cruisers can be dispatched to a remote site of a natural disaster and set up an impromptu network with the SUVs.
Three technologies are used in the network: Wi-Fi; UHF radio waves; and Delay Tolerant Networking (DTN). The system overall works as a store-and-forward network. Delay Tolerant Networking is the term for heterogenous networking technologies, basically finding a way for them to speak to each other, even if they need to wait till they come into range. Unlike other networking systems where data isn’t stored, with DTN, using the LandCruiser model, one vehicle might receive a signal but not pass it on to the next point in the network until it changes location. Local storage is required at each point in the network. That’s also why it’s called store-and-forward, it won’t forward a message until it has a connection.
The Land Cruiser Emergency Network is dependent on flexible and mobile networking technology, but wouldn’t even be possible without a lot of Land Cruisers doing what they do best in the outback.