Communications key to self-driving success
The Internet of Things (IoT) represents a significant commercial opportunity for communication service providers (CSPs), able to supply and manage the underlying network connectivity needed to link tens of billions of sensors and devices over the next three years, a large proportion of which will reside in connected cars.
Research company IDC estimates that global expenditure on connected cars will reach US$29.6bn by 2017, with spending on the intelligent transportation systems (ITS) that are in turn closely linked to smart city infrastructure expected to peak at US$16.5bn in the same timeframe.
A key, if not primary, focus for those ITS deployments is the safety of autonomous vehicles which remain at an early stage of their maturity.
Extensive trials by companies including Google, Tesla and Uber have shown that accidents can happen and that self-driving vehicles need to better communicate with roadside infrastructure to reduce the risks of collision.
Most car manufacturers and autonomous vehicle tests to date have focused on the vehicle as an independent entity driven by a combination of on-board sensors and highly detailed maps. But in the future, more emphasis will be put on how the overall transport system within smart cities can be improved by sharing real-time information from vehicle to vehicle (V2V), vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) and other types of vehicle communications (V2X).
The Car 2 Car Communication Consortium (CAR2CAR) is an organisation dedicated to bringing co-operative ITS systems and services to the European market, with initial deployments scheduled for 2019. The group includes 17 vehicle manufacturers – Audi, BMW Group, Daimler, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Landrover, Opel, PSA Peugeot Citroen, Groupe Renault, Toyota, Volkswagen, Volvo and Yamaha – alongside 39 equipment suppliers and 30 academic and research organisations.
CAR2CAR is currently developing suitable network transmission and communication standards based on the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) ITS-G5 and Institute of Electrical and Electronical Engineers (IEEE) 802.11p wireless local area network (WLAN) specifications operating in the 5.9GHz frequency spectrum for short-range V2V and V2I communications.
However, building a network architecture based on those standards is likely to mean extensive deployment of new masts, transmitters and receiving equipment, a significant investment for many local authorities, smart city stakeholders and CSPs which could handicap or delay its rollout.
Other companies are exploring different wireless transmission options for ITS which could utilise much of the mobile phone networks that already cover most urban areas.
One is Vodafone, which began trialling fifth generation (5G) networks for cars in the UK and Germany based on long term evolution (LTE) technology in late 2016. The LTE-V2X tests are being conducted in partnership with Bosch and Huawei and will enable cars to chat with each other and roadside infrastructure and traffic lights to improve road safety and efficiency, as well as supporting eCall, the service that automatically notifies emergency services in the event of a crash and provides critical information including location and vehicle type.
A car which is part of the ITS will can tell other cars of its intention to change lane or to signal an emergency stop for example, or be told the optimal driving speed in any one location to avoid traffic congestion. In the trial of the technology on a section of the A9 between Nuremburg and Munich, vehicles will transmit speed, position and highway lane data directly to all other vehicles in a perimeter of 320 meters in real time. The infrastructure relies on an optimised wireless network from Vodafone, with Huawei providing in-vehicle and base station mobile radio transmitters and Bosch working on systems integration and software inside the cars.
Audi, BMW and Daimler have also formed an association with telecom firms Qualcomm, Huawei, Ericsson, Intel and Nokia to study the potential of 5G networks for future fleets, with the ready-built infrastructure of LTE cellular towers a big draw. A trial is being conducted by Audi, Ericsson, Qualcomm Technologies, SWARCO Traffic Systems and the University of Kaiserslautern in Germany. The Connected Vehicle to Everything of Tomorrow (ConVeX) also involves a cellular V2X (C-V2X) platform which supports V2V, V2I and vehicle to pedestrian (V2P) communication that aims to avoid pedestrian injuries by transmitting location information from smartphones to the vehicle.
Whilst V2V, V2I and V2P technology is very much a work in progress, CSPs have an opportunity to develop and appropriate service delivery models using existing telematics platforms based either on in-car devices or driver smartphones, in partnership with car manufacturers and other third party companies such as insurance companies or roadside assistance providers. These usually combine cellular network connectivity with GPS transmitters to enable stolen vehicle tracking, remote door locking/unlocking and electronic toll charging functions for example, as well as usage or mileage based insurance policies, car leasing contract and rental fleet management applications. Research firm Berg Insight estimates that shipments of these embedded car OEM telematics systems will reach 54.5m units by 2020.
Smart city and ITS integration will significantly extend those capabilities and enable a wealth of additional applications and services that CSPs can deliver on top once that infrastructure is in place. These could include drive through airport check-ins for example, as well as links to databases of hazardous driving conditions in specific locations, advanced warnings of traffic light phase schedules to help determine optional speeds, roadwork and traffic jam warnings, and clearing the road for emergency vehicles before they can be seen or heard.
On top of secure network connectivity, many of those applications will require cloud hosting capabilities, sophisticated real time data analytics and processing, systems management and integration expertise if they are to successfully link all the devices, endpoints, networks and data needed to make ITS a reality – all resources available to CSPs through their own service portfolios or partnerships.
The first V2V-enabled vehicle in the form of the 2017 Cadillac CTS will be sold in US dealerships later this year. Other automotive manufacturers will follow in 2018 and smart CSPs should formulate appropriate business strategies now to stake an early claim in the service chain