Since the development of the first vehicle in the year 1886, known as the “Benz Patent Motor Car, model no. 1,” the Automotive Industry has made great progress in improving production and performance, reducing resources and costs and improving safety systems. All innovations to this point have been focused on individual vehicle improvements.
Today, automakers and their suppliers face new challenges, such as protecting our environment and managing change in an unstable economy. Focus is shifting from building individual vehicles to developing affordable transportation systems that ensure mobility demands without impacting the environment. The automotive industry now must overcome new barriers to help us reach this connected and autonomous future:
- The success of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems/Autonomous Driving (ADAS/AD) systems is dependent on the capability to exchange and analyze data in real time without violating privacy rules, losing intellectual property or creating safety risks from cyberattacks. Data management and analytics solutions combined with secured and reliable connectivity between vehicles and infrastructure are required. Neither the technology and data protocols nor the responsibilities and rights have been decided and standardized.
- All companies involved in the transportation system of the future must be connected and able to exchange data to be successful. Government regulations and the required smart city infrastructure to enable this communication are not yet in place.
Roadblock or Detour?
A good example of the complexity involved in this evolution of the automotive industry is the 2020 decision of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reallocate a portion of spectrum previously reserved for connected car safety-related use cases to make it available for wireless broadband applications such as Wi-Fi hotspots. In 1999, the FCC set aside the 5.9 GHz band for dedicated short-range radio communication (DSRC) technologies that provide high reliability, low latency, high bandwidth, low interference and cybersecurity protection so that traffic safety could be improved by communication of potential risks between vehicles and between vehicle and infrastructure.
The FCC still proposes to designate the upper portion of the remaining spectrum for cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) technology applications, the newest iteration of vehicle communications. C-V2X shows much more promise to support a connected vehicle ecosystem that provides direct 5G communications between vehicles, between vehicles and infrastructure, between vehicles and other road users and between vehicles and cellular communications providers’ mobile broadband networks.
What’s the Difference Between DSRC and 5G?
Both DRSC and 5G provide the performance, speed and latency required for successful communication between connected automated vehicles (CAVs) and their environment, but they cannot use the same band and require different technologies in the vehicles and infrastructure. Attaching chips and IoT devices to infrastructure at a large scale to enable 5G technology in places where DSRC is already in place may be expensive and take too long, especially with respect to the current – though short-term – shortage of semiconductor chips. A combination of both communication technologies could be a good solution, but the technology for it is not yet in place because it is still in development.
DSRC provides robust protection against interference, even under bad weather conditions, and has a long history of proven security. 5G is a newer technology that is in use globally and offers high availability. This wider availability and large user base mean an increase in the risk of cybersecurity attacks. Fortunately, many of the tools and applications developed to protect cloud-native applications in the enterprise can be applied to meet the needs of 5G networks.
Does Connectivity Impact the Safe Performance of Assisted and Autonomous Vehicles?
Nowadays, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems/Autonomous Driving (ADAS/AD) vehicles use sensors to monitor the dynamic and static objects around them and analyze the traffic situation for an appropriate vehicle reaction. Performance and safety are limited by the detection range of the sensors.
To significantly increase traffic safety in crowded cities and on high-speed roads, it is important to expand the detection field of the sensors on ADAS/AD vehicles to enable vehicles to “see around corners” by receiving information on unseen objects and situations from other vehicles and city infrastructure. Here are some examples of how V2V, Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) and Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) communication could help to prevent accidents:
- V2V communication: To reduce rear-end collisions or accidents during lane changes, the connected vehicles can exchange braking, steering and acceleration interventions with the vehicles in the same traffic scenario/field.
- V2X communication: In combination with V2X communication, an ADAS/AD system can enhance operations via real-time information on traffic jams, construction zones, obstacles on the road and other valuable information.
- V2I communication: Communication with “Smart Traffic Infrastructure” via Roadside Units (RSU) enables the ADAS/AD-system to be aware of risks outside of the vehicle’s specific detection range. The RSUs receive information from other vehicles or surrounding infrastructure and communicate the identified objects or risks in the same or nearby traffic zones to the vehicle so that it can proactively initiate appropriate risk mitigation measures.
While limiting V2V, V2I and V2X capabilities would have a significant impact on traffic safety, vehicle communication related to ADAS/AD functions does not necessarily have to include the transfer of sensor data. It can be based on a list of identified, anonymized objects with GPS coordinates, speed and direction, which would mean that the reduced spectrum will not impact how ADAS/AD systems operate.
Can a Decrease in Bandwidth Impact How Well Assisted and Autonomous Vehicles Operate?
One of the major arguments for using DSRC technology is greater reliability and security. Missing or incorrect information about static or dynamic objects could lead a vehicle’s ADAS/AD system to react in ways that are not aligned with the real traffic scenario. But will interrupted or corrupted communication cause safety-related false positive or false negative system reactions?
The safety response of an ADAS/AD vehicle cannot rely on a single communication path – it must crosscheck data against additional information as well as the sensor signals in the vehicle. Unstable communication is always a risk, independent of the DSRC discussion, so safety measures in the vehicle are there to decrease that risk. Final responsibility for a safe reaction lies within the vehicle. The V2V, V2I and V2X information is used as an extension to increase performance and safety, but not as a single input for safety-related decisions.
Increasing traffic safety depends on aligning all connected vehicles to one communications technology or developing new communications technologies based on research findings, but the future of ADAS/AD is not threatened by the recent court ruling in favor of the FCC.
This decision does have a huge impact on city infrastructure planning and vehicle communication technology. Hopefully, it will increase the urgency and willingness of the automotive and communication industries to test, evaluate and secure the different technologies for V2V, V2I and V2X communication so that we can align on the best future communication technology for traffic safety.
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