Following the recent launch of the CAM Testbed UK: Connected  video series, Rob Capaldi, Commercial Manager – CAV at HORIBA MIRA (part of CAM Testbed UK) shares his insights on the vital role connectivity plays.

The importance of connectivity

It’s no secret that connected and automated mobility (CAM) will be part of our future, with significant and well-documented investments leading to a large increase in the knowledge needed to develop vehicles that ‘control themselves’.   

Technology companies are investing in the creation of automation systems that will allow vehicles to operate independently, while exploring new business models to provide mobility services. Meanwhile, automakers are developing Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) with increasing complexity to improve vehicle safety and change the driving experience.  Local authorities and governments are leading in the development of smart cities, with plans to improve lives through greater connectivity and use of data.

CAM represents an important ingredient in the smart city of tomorrow and the efforts being made by industry support its status as one of the key enablers to improve journeys.

CAM technology developments are not only focused on the solutions of the future, they are also being used now to improve the efficiency of journeys, support new business models in the mobility sector and ensure the use of our roads is improved. This is being achieved through the trial and use of advanced communication technology, connecting vehicles with both other road users and infrastructure.

One major benefit to implementing advanced connectivity as part of the sensor suite of an autonomous vehicle, is the ability to enable the vehicle to react to ‘out of sight’ hazards that have been identified by other road users or the surrounding infrastructure. This adds to the data gathered by the vehicles’ on-board sensors and will not only improve journey efficiency but also improve road safety and occupant comfort.

Such is the growth of connectivity in vehicles that the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) predict that all cars in the UK will be connected by 2026 and it is estimated that the global market size for vehicle to everything (V2X) communication technologies is forecast to reach $6 Billion by 2025.

The here and now

There have been many high-profile trials of vehicle to vehicle (V2V) and vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) communications technology, the outcomes of these trials have largely been positive.

In the UK, projects completed to trial connectivity solutions have included the A2 M2 Connected Corridor project, in which a pilot was undertaken to transmit information about the road conditions, roadworks and traffic light signalling directly to connected vehicles.

The information was displayed on in-vehicle screens, providing live information to drivers to guide them on vehicle speed and road position, to improve the efficiency of journeys through the connected corridor. 

This approach is similar to the Audi ‘Traffic Light Information’ feature that is being gradually rolled out across the globe, in which the car connects with the local infrastructure and displays information within the instrument panel to aid the driver.

The limitation however of both the A2 M2 Connected Corridor and the Audi V2I technologies, is that they are both tied to specific vehicles, either vehicles under test or vehicles from a single manufacturer. In order to widen the use of communications technology there needs to be collaboration and cross over between vehicle makers and infrastructure providers to open the communication between brands.

As part of the UK Autodrive project, seven connected car features were developed to a demonstratable level of maturity, resulting in showcase trials in the cities of Milton Keynes and Coventry. A key aspect of these trials was the interoperability of the communication systems between vehicle manufacturers; Ford, Jaguar Land Rover and Tata Motors all operated vehicles as part of the project, initially trialling the technologies on the HORIBA MIRA controlled environment testbed before the final deployment on public roads.

The project highlighted that important consideration must be given to the amount of ‘new’ information provided to drivers – such as road conditions and the surrounding area – because this, in addition to the traditional vehicle performance information provided with the instrument cluster, can overload drivers, distracting them from the task of driving. There has been standardisation over many years in the range of vehicle performance information displayed to the driver, such as vehicle speed, fuel level and fuel consumption; as increased driving data will be displayed and the need for interoperability between vehicles comes to the fore, consistency in presentation of information must also follow to ensure users can interpret the information consistently regardless of vehicle brand.

As has been demonstrated by the Zenzic’s CAM Testbed UK: Connected video series, the trial of connected vehicle technologies is an integral part of the CAM Testbed UK ecosystem  with the Zenzic trial vehicle undergoing a diverse range of tests at all partner facilities to showcase the range of test and development capability the UK has to offer.

HORIBA MIRA is closely aligned with industry, with key facilities and capabilities coming online to support the development of CAM technologies. Our approach to validation and verification of these technologies will enable clients to undertake simulation, testing and trials in a controlled and flexible way, this is not only limited to ‘in vehicle’ technologies – our expertise extends to the development of the enabling infrastructure to ensure V2V and V2I communications takes place seamlessly.

Taking a global perspective

The UK is not unique in its approach to trialling connected vehicle technologies. In the USA the Federal Department of Transport (DoT) has led a range of projects in a number of cities, to trial deployments of connected vehicle technologies. The DoT has taken the approach to pioneer the development of connectivity, with a lesser involvement in project-to-trial automation technologies.

In New York, a trial has taken place to integrate multiple sources of data capture across all elements of the surface transportation system, including the freeway, arterial roads, parking and toll roads. The aim of the project was to understand the possible improvements needed within the transport system to enhance journeys.

In Tampa, Florida, the DoT has run a project in a central business district to understand the enhancements that can be made in a densely populated inner-city area. The aim is to enhance the travel time, improve safety by reducing crashes, and reduce the tailpipe emissions by optimising vehicle usage.

The project involved around 1,000 privately owned vehicles, trams, buses and multiple roadside units.

Both of these projects involved a number of specific applications to provide information to the driver to assist them in their journey, similar to the UK’s A2 M2 Connected Corridor project. Currently these features have not been evolved to look at how they can be integrated with vehicle control systems on an automated vehicle. This will be a logical next step.

One of the key challenges when comparing international trials of connected vehicle technology is the variation of systems used to communicate in each area.  Currently, an unconnected car can travel seamlessly across borders with no detriment to performance or safety.  As the number of connected systems increases and safety relies upon these systems, it will be increasingly difficult to cross borders unless both local and international collaboration takes place to ensure standardisation of communications and data. There is an ongoing debate between the relative benefits of ITS-G5, DSRC, 5G and 4G as the chosen method of communication.

Where does connectivity fit on the UK Connected and Automated Mobility Roadmap to 2030?

The essential role connectivity plays in CAM is highlighted by its position in Zenzic’s UK Connected and Automated Mobility Roadmap to 2030. The roadmap is sub-divided into multiple themes that cover the key areas that require investment, support and development to work towards the implementation of CAM in 2030. It includes society and people, vehicles, infrastructure, and services. 

Connectivity sits firmly in the vehicle development theme of the roadmap as one of the major streams influencing the development of vehicle technology towards 2030. It sets out four key steps that must be followed in order to unlock the benefits associated with an increase in usage of data. In chronological order, the steps required are as follows:

Safety and data standards – the need to establish standards and common data formats for communications is essential to ensure consistency and to enable seamless communication by all connected points in the CAM eco system, vehicle, infrastructure and other devices in the Internet of Things.

Cooperative data sharing – enabling the sharing of data between vehicle manufacturers and infrastructure providers, the roadmap indicates that the data communicated directly to the vehicle HMI should be ‘static’ to minimise the complexity of information provided to the driver. Complex data should be communicated directly to the vehicle control system to provide information on speed limits or road usage.

Legacy fleet connectivity – this is a key step that will be required to enable the mixing of the existing vehicle fleet with newer, connected vehicles. The roadmap advises that it should be mandatory to retrofit non-connected vehicles with technology to bring them in line with the ‘new’ vehicles on the roads.

Ubiquitous cooperative connectivity – building on the development and trials, the final step in the roadmap as it moves towards 2030 is the significant shift from ‘Zero Trust Networks’ being operated in isolation, to a more co-operative approach, with all vehicles meeting the minimum connectivity standards. This final point is more of a milestone than a development, becoming the goal for the other development steps to aspire towards.

In addition to featuring as a key part within the vehicle theme in the roadmap, connectivity also plays a crucial role in the infrastructure theme.

The implementation of communications technology is necessary for the updates required to the national road infrastructure to enable the transmission of key safety messages. The aim is to have 80% of the Strategic Road Network upgraded with the capability to communicate safety information by 2030.

There is clearly much work underway to drive the development of advanced connectivity in vehicles, it is a global development trend that will form a key part of the implementation of connected and automated mobility.  As has been highlighted by the Zenzic, there are several key milestones that we must pass through to enable the systems to function correctly and to ensure the data generated is meaningful and able to be interpreted in a useful way. To ensure these gateways can be met, the key requirement for industry is increased collaboration and standardisation, enabling integration of multiple vehicles with the roadside infrastructure in the smart city of the future.