Smart transportation is a key operating component of every smart city. Smart transportation technologies, applications, and data can integrate with other smart city infrastructure systems to address challenges such as mobility, safety, pollution and congestion. In that context, the Indian government’s five-year 100-city Smart City Mission represents a huge new opportunity for the Indian automotive industry.
But the concept of smart connected-autonomous vehicles is as yet at quite a nascent stage in India. According to one analyst estimate, a mere 1.4 percent of cars in India have even basic connectivity. But there has been a steady stream of announcements that indicate the market rising to the opportunity. Nissan for instance is upgrading three models from its India portfolio this year with connectivity capabilities and an app-based services model. Earlier this year Tata Motors showcased a fully connected concept sports coupe, developed in partnership with Microsoft India, at the Geneva International Motor Show. As part of its Jio Car Connect initiative, Reliance Jio Infocomm is partnering with US-based AirWire Technologies to launch the latter’s connected car device in India and offer a range of app-based communication, entertainment, location, and telematics services. And finally, connected car solutions company Minda iConnect is collaborating with Microsoft India to develop connected vehicle technologies including vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication.
In-vehicle connectivity, which enables the delivery of telematics and other value-added infotainment services, is the entry-level capability in the paradigm of connected automobiles. A smart-city-enabled, so to speak, connected automobile would have capabilities like V2V and V2I communications, all of which have now been conveniently combined into a manageable V2X or vehicle-to-everything.
A vehicle-to-everything network integrates all communications, transportation and infrastructure systems to enable a range of performance, efficiency and safety enhancements. It empowers citizens with real-time information for more efficient route planning, helps reduce congestion and emissions and enhances safety.
In the U.S, for instance, there is already a proposal to mandate V2V in all new car models starting 2021. Embedded safety systems in automobiles typically work independently and rely on the sensors in the car. But V2V technologies create a collaborative situational awareness by enabling data exchange between vehicles. The shared data is used to alert drivers to potential collisions and hazards, even those that are not in the line of sight of sensors like at blind turns or crowded intersections. The concept even extends to a vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P) model that covers pedestrians, cyclists, and other road users. Snapdragon Automotive Solutions, from chip giant Qualcomm, and Delphi offer solutions that can alert road users through their smartphones or other connected wearables. Delphi’s self-driving system can even take preventive action based on any sudden risky maneuvers from other vehicles in the vicinity.
V2I technologies allow vehicles to communicate with infrastructure components like road signage or traffic lights for instance.
A V2I service from Audi, for example, uses a 4G LTE connection between the car and a centralized traffic management network to update drivers to wait times at traffic signals. Concurrently the infrastructure is also getting smarter. A smart signal pilot in Pittsburgh resulted in a reduction in travel time by 26 percent, idling time by 40 percent vehicle emissions by 20 percent. Rather than pre-programmed timing and phasing cycles for traffic lights, the smart system monitors actual traffic volumes and then uses a combination of real-time analytics and artificial intelligence to dynamically adapt the signaling sequence to traffic conditions. As early as 2015, Jaguar Land Rover was working with innovation partner Coventry City Council to understand how information about road hazards, like potholes or broken drain pipes and manholes, gathered by the company’s MagneRide platform could be shared with road authorities, maintenance teams and other vehicles.
In a truly connected smart city like Songdo in South Korea, every automobile is fitted with RFID tags. Aggregated real-time data from all these tags are continuously analyzed at a central hub to identify and mitigate congestion.
So a range of V2X technologies in various forms and applications have been road-tested successfully over the last decade. They now have an established utility as an intelligent transport management system that can enhance driver awareness, manage congestion, optimize traffic flows, reduce emissions, prevent accidents and improve the overall traffic management capabilities of any city. It is also important to understand that connected automobiles are just one component of the transportation infrastructure of a smart city. So city planners will have to take into account the potential for connected/autonomous vehicles, ride-sharing platforms, public transport systems etc. to operate in concert to address the mobility and logistics needs of the citizenry.
In order to be truly effective, V2X technologies have to be supported by smart communication capabilities embedded in a city’s transportation and other infrastructure systems. The innovative potential of these technologies and their applications have to be integrated into a city’s planning model, not only for their mobility systems but for all infrastructure services. But smart cities represent the ideal testbed for the connected car and vice-versa. And this partnership will in many ways define the way forward for autonomous vehicles.