Monday 18th October 2021

Connected transport – a systems-based approach

Published on December 12th, 2019

Market analysts expect more than 95% of new vehicles to include Internet connectivity by 2020, with increasing numbers featuring automated driving capabilities, say Ken Figueredo of Convida Wireless and Ash Wheeler of Chordant, Inc.

According to the American Society of Automotive Engineers, these features will enable five levels of autonomous vehicle operation. From Level 1, which involves some form of driver assistance; to Level 5 which equates to unrestricted autonomous travel with no human driver present. This framework defines the Connected and Autonomous (CAV) industry in its present-day form.

Test autonomous vehicles

Aside from securing the permission to test autonomous vehicles, the CAV industry’s top issue has been technology innovation. Remote connectivity brings new possibilities, with considerable attention being paid to vehicle-to-vehicle communications. A lot of focus has gone into the advancement of sensing techniques. The same is true of computing power to map the surrounding environment and enable safe and autonomous driving decisions.

With early experiments now complete, the market is beginning to mature. Attention is turning to how CAV technologies can deliver a range of mobility services. The focus now is on the benefits to be gained by the travelling public, for vehicle suppliers and for the organisations that manage the transportation network.

This signals a shift in strategy. CAV technologies now coexist with the commercial and operational realities of Connected and Autonomous Mobility (CAM) services. We can view this as a clear sign that the industry is graduating from the experiments and pilot stage as it moves to the next chapter.

The ‘systems’ context 

The delivery of CAM services relies on a systems-based approach. This treats CAVs as one element in a larger system. Other elements are smart assets, such as connected streetlights and traffic-speed sensors. Public transport and car parks are also part of the system, particularly when viewed through the lens of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) solutions.

Smart assets can provide the data to manage aggregated traffic flows. This in turn leads to more efficient use of the transportation network. Smart assets can also provide timely data to CAVs. This data in turn helps the travelling public to optimise journey planning and make travel choices which have the power to reduce levels of environmental pollution.

In any transportation ecosystem, CAVs are one of several modes of transport. With better information, the travelling public can plan multi-modal journeys involving private vehicles and public parking spaces, for example. It could be that they might avoid private vehicle journeys altogether if there is a better alternative or if they learn of unpleasant traffic conditions ahead.

Data sharing ecosystems 

The key to making CAM services work is for different players in the ecosystem to share data. Consider fleet operators and the data their connected vehicles generate. They are one such source of real-time traffic flows about the transportation network. Another group includes public sector transportation agencies and emergency service providers. There are also data providers who also have prior information of diversions and temporary changes in use of certain streets.

Ken Figueredo

Other entities provide data about local weather conditions, car park occupancy rates and the availability of vehicle charging points. By working collaboratively, these organisations can create a better information model of the transportation system, giving the travelling public choice and the necessary data to make better informed travel decisions.

A recently announced initiative from Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) illustrates the potential of CAV-based transport solutions. TfWM is part of Midlands Future Mobility (MFM), a public-private partnership that is developing a real-world test environment for transport solutions. Its facilities cover more than 50 miles of roads in Coventry and Warwickshire, and Birmingham. This test environment aims to represent the most diverse combination of roads, junctions and traffic measures in the world.

MFM will operate a real-time mobility Data Hub. This will consolidate, store and distribute multiple intelligent transport datasets in support of vehicle manufacturers as well as technology and transport service providers. It will allow businesses to develop and test new products and services in an approximation of a real-world setting.

Data Hub

At the heart of the Data Hub is a modern, neutral broker. The broker enables intelligent transport and smart city data to be fully exploited across multiple applications and services, by both public and private organisations. The Data Hub builds on the lessons learned from field-trials involving Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Hertfordshire and Northamptonshire and Highways England. The trials demonstrated the benefits of bringing together, curating and sharing different, disparate real-time and reference data from existing and new transport systems. More importantly, the solution drives organisational change, delivering positive transport sector outcomes.

The Data Hub provider, Chordant, emphasises open standards, notably the oneM2M technical specifications in its solution. Standardisation ensures that customers and solution partners can build their strategies in a continuously evolving and technology-neutral way. It allows ecosystem partners to minimise vendor lock-in risks. It also carries the assurance of a framework that will accommodate growth in new applications and data marketplace features. That will be strategically important as the CAV market matures and innovative CAM service models emerge.

The authors are Ken Figueredo of Convida Wireless and Ash Wheeler of Chordant, Inc.

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