Essential ICT infrastructure for smart, automated transport
No more traffic jams. Safer roads. Less pollution. These are just some of the benefits promised as automated and connected vehicles take to the streets - but only if they can effectively communicate and cooperate. An EU-funded project is developing key network infrastructure technology to lead this revolution in transport automation.
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While autonomous vehicles are experimental and connected vehicles are far from common, there is already a wealth of data available to improve road transport. Traffic monitoring and road infrastructure management platforms, car-navigation systems, drivers mobile phones, millions of urban and motorway cameras and sensors that detect passing vehicles they all provide valuable data. Partially and fully self-driving cars will add to this information with their own sensor, radar and camera systems.
The EU-funded ICT4CART project now aims to ensure autonomous vehicles are always contributing to and extracting important information from all this existing and emerging data in an intelligent, interoperable and secure way. Ultimately, this will lead to safer roads and less pollution.
If automated and connected vehicles go on to our roads in an uncoordinated way without support from information and communication infrastructure, the traffic flow will be degraded, making the current situation regarding congestion and emissions worse, and even raising the risk of accidents, says Angelos Amditis of the Institute of Communication and Computer Systems in Greece, coordinator of the ICT4CART project.
Moving towards low-carbon and more efficient transport will depend on new technologies and improved connectivity to facilitate the circulation of automated vehicles, enabling their smooth integration into existing traffic and, in the longer term, leading to minimisation of congestion and increased traffic flow, he adds.
The ICT4CART initiative will design, develop and test a robust ICT architecture to ensure automated vehicles are always securely connected to current and emerging wireless technologies and can share information and coordinate with other vehicles and the broader road transport network.
Researchers are focusing on reliability, availability and redundancy between communication technologies, including current 4G mobile systems and upcoming 5G and ETSI Intelligent Transport System G5. This is a WiFi broadcast technology being launched in Europe to deliver secure direct vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication.
The projects hybrid communication solutions will be supported by a Cloud-based IT environment to allow efficient exchange and management of data, enable real-time analytics, protect data privacy and open up new business models.
Rather than attempting to develop generic solutions, the ICT4CART team is focusing on four specific use-cases covering key challenges, which will be tested under real-world conditions in Austria, Germany and Italy.
These include how communications are passed between networks when a car crosses a national border, to be tested between Italy and Austria; how to ensure cars can continue to communicate when signals might be obstructed, such as on entering underground parking or in dense urban traffic; and how to boost the situational awareness of autonomous vehicles at critical moments using data from traffic-monitoring systems and other vehicles.
Safer and cleaner roads
One of the most important benefits automation in road transport will bring is the minimisation of accidents, the majority of which are caused by human error. In turn, this will lead to fewer road deaths and injuries, Amditis says.
In addition, automation will ease congestion and reduce pollution from road transport, which currently accounts for 17 % of EU emissions.
The flexible network architecture, based on network slicing, will allow for the specialisation and isolation of different types of applications with different performance requirements, allowing services to account for the needs of different users and relevant circumstances, whether to improve the comfort of vehicle occupants, avoid congestion or ensure road safety, Amditis says. On top of the communications infrastructure, the IT environment will enable third-party providers such as IT and app developers to offer innovative commercial services and therefore create new business opportunities in the ecosystem.