The connected vehicle future

Issue 34 – December 2011

The future of transportation and traffic management

The future of transportation and traffic management is at a turning point. For the last 50 years, we have focused on building more roads and expanding those we already have. This can be costly and time-consuming, and yet may not alleviate traffic congestion, increase safety, or reduce environmental impacts. In the next 50 years (or less), our focus will rely on technology to do more with less to transform our roadways and vehicles.

Most of us can only imagine what our commutes will be like next year, not to mention 50 years from now. If the explosion of the internet and smart phones tells us anything, technology will also rule our driving tactics. The future of the automotive industry and traffic management will allow vehicles to 'talk' to each other as well as talk to roadside equipment and surrounding infrastructure.

The US Department of Transportation Research and Innovative Technology Administration is eyeing a connected vehicle (CV) initiative to lay out plans for this future system. As with the internet, a standards-based, initially government funded, open-sourced technology programme will lay the foundation for CVs. The CV concept is focused in three areas: safety, mobility, and the environment. Each of these areas has specific needs and challenges.

Safety

The use of technology will allow drivers, or even vehicles, to make decisions based on conditions around them. Anticipating potential incidents before they happen will significantly reduce their numbers. In 2010, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 5.5 million crashes, 2.2 million traffic injuries, and more than 32,000 fatalities. Reductions of these numbers will be achieved through the use of 360-degree awareness systems that will warn drivers of conditions around them while also applying technology already in the vehicle.

Mobility

Systems will correct traffic patterns or notify drivers to make choices that will reduce travel time. This will help alleviate some of the 3.9 billion hours of time wasted in traffic, as reported by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) in 2010.

Environment

Drivers will make decisions that will reduce idle times and conserve fuel. This will help save some of the 3.9 billion gallons of gas wasted annually as reported by TTI.

The CV system will be based on communication through dedicated short range communications (DSRC) that will allow vehicles to 'talk' to each other and to roadway infrastructure in real time. DSRC radios will be placed in vehicles by manufacturers or made available by third-party vendors to create an uninterrupted mesh of signals similar to wireless technology systems.

The National Equipment Manufacturers Association (NEMA) Transportation Management Systems and Associated Control Devices Product Section (3TS) members are critical players in the deployment of a CV system. These manufacturers build traffic signal heads; loop, video, and radar detectors; traffic controllers; dynamic message signs; central control systems; and portable traffic signals.

NEMA members are changing the way we experience driving. Already they deploy detectors that deliver data to vehicles and central systems; controllers that send and receive information from vehicles, signal heads, and central systems; signal heads to send messages to traffic controllers; dynamic message signs and portable traffic signals; and central systems that monitor and control the entire configuration.

In an information-driven age, we must adapt our thinking to keep up. Imagine a world where traffic signals change as you approach the intersection or your vehicle receives real-time weather and traffic reports to suggest routes to get you to your destination on time. Central systems will map out traffic patterns and send information to avoid an accident or congested areas around a major event.

In the future, your smart phone may become the link between you, your vehicle, and information you need to navigate this world. It will be used to find and reserve a parking space; find the nearest electric vehicle charging station; monitor miles travelled; synchronise maps, messages, and favourite locations; and pay tolls and parking fees. And it won't only be your smart phone connected to this system. It will include your home, your office, and the businesses you frequent.

Can you imagine life without your mp3 player, memory stick, smart phone, or internet connection? In the near future, you won't be able to imagine your life without your connected vehicle.

Summarised from an article by John R. Miller, Industry director at The National Equipment Manufacturers Association (NEMA), in NEMA electroindustry magazine, November 2011.

Standards, DSRC radios, and certification will ensure that our talking cars can talk

With The National Electrical Manufacturers Association's (NEMA's) leadership on smart grid and 2 decades of support for intelligent transportation systems (ITS), NEMA members are now ready to be a part of the 'connected vehicle' future. And that future may hold newly emerging schemes to certify an important piece of new equipment that will be in our vehicles and at our roadsides.

The US Department of Transportation (DOT), car manufacturers, after-market manufacturers, and newly-emerged associations are all participating in the development of vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications with features that support new safety, mobility, and environmental applications.

Part of the DOT programme is sponsorship of dedicated short-range communications (DSRC), using 5.9 GHz channel assignments and IEEE 1609 Family of Standards for Wireless access in vehicular environments for the radio links. A federal proposal, similar to the one that requires air bags in new vehicles, could be enacted as early as 2013. It would mandate that new vehicles sold in the U.S. be 'connected vehicles,' that is, they would have DSRC transceivers, which would enable them to 'talk' to each other and to the roadside.

Older vehicles could use after-market DSRC devices to join in this new vehicle network, and drivers could then experience many new autonomous features: collision avoidance, sudden stop messages to trailing vehicles, smoother traffic flow, improved traffic signal actuation, gas-saving engine control when at red lights, and many other applications.

With such important safety-based communications, DSRC radios will require several types of testing and certification before deployment in vehicles or along the roadside. Although we're mostly familiar with standards from NEMA, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and others for electrical products, as well as related testing from UL, CSA, and other Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTLs), there are many similar and parallel schemes being used for other products.

The new player to help connected vehicles connect is The OmniAir Consortium. OmniAir's members advocate for national deployment of open, effective, and interoperable transportation technologies. OmniAir was formed to define a certification programme and services, select affiliated test organisations, and facilitate open standards and third-party certification.

In May 2011, OmniAir received notice from the ITS Joint Program Office to start work on 'Plans, procedures, and tools for qualification and certification testing of connected vehicle 'Here I Am' (HIA) devices'. The purpose is to develop and document plans, procedures, and tools for the qualification and certification testing of HIA radio devices, and to actually conduct the tests.

Conformity assessment schemes are applied to many products, in many ways that are invisible, until you start investigating. But there's a cycle of life that's common across these industries: a product, a standard, a test, a certification, an inspection. NEMA is pleased and proud of the role it plays in developing and maintaining many of those standards that play a key part of the cycle in many of the world's conformity schemes.

Summarised from an article by Bruce Schopp, Manager of transportation systems at NEMA, in NEMA electroindustry magazine, October 2011.

Published in transport.