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Connected car: scenarios for the next future

The 5G “dispute” against G5: a contribution to the discussion

sfondo mauro

  Per la versione in Italiano: https://www.stradeeautostrade.it/its-smart-road/auto-connessa-scenari-per-il-prossimo-futuro/

In recent months the process towards the connected car has accelerated: on March 13 the Commission published, as a “delegated act”, the Regulation for the activation of C-ITS cooperative services, services that are based on continuous connection between vehicles (V2V), between these and the infrastructure (V2I) and the various other traffic players (V2X).

The Regulation, which currently does not oblige States and operators to implement the services but binds them to specifications, is intended to enter into force on 1 January 2020, unless Parliament and the Council take action to request changes or slips.

The Regulation raised strong objections for the possible lack of “technological neutrality” which resulted in a proposal for a blocking resolution of the European Parliament (rejected by the Majority), in a similar proposal to the Council (under examination) and in various articles of press, which even cited a – non-existent – G5-5G competition (delegated regulation of 13 March 2019 which integrates Directive 2010/40/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards the diffusion and operational use of cooperative intelligent transport systems).

Connected cars
1.

The reason for the dispute is the choice – for the short time and for the short distance connection only – of the “G5” technology inspired by “Wi-Fi”, and the simultaneous “putting on hold” of its alternative (“VTE-LTX”, of telephone inspiration).

The Regulation opens the way for future technologies, committing the Commission to incorporate new specifications, and inviting all Stakeholders to collaborate actively in the process in order to preserve the principle of technological neutrality, but it is clear that – having to meet compatibility and interoperability requirements – potential successors see the risk of increasing costs and difficulties.

Objections and disputes, if not quickly resolved positively, can only create uncertainty among operators and delay the launch of cooperative services. These services which, it should be noted, have as a basic requirement the possibility for all vehicles to communicate always and in any case with the their neighbors, regardless of the type and brand of vehicles, the technologies installed, the presence of telephone networks.

In another report (“S&A” n° 136 July/August 2019, page 170), Enrico Zucca clarifies the nature of the two technologies that are currently competing and their perspectives.

In the following we will try to offer some considerations on the wider scenario of vehicle connections, distinguishing, where possible, between two different types: the “cooperative” connections (all traffic players communicate with each other, in a standardized way) and the ”general” connections purpose” (the vehicle communicates with various service providers).

Cooperative services: utility and evolution

The studies that led to the definition and hoped launch of the C-ITS services quantify a benefit/cost ratio in the first few years equal to at least three: the benefits concern efficiency and traffic safety, while the costs include those suffered by the consumer.

The interest in their fast activation is therefore evident, even more evident if we look at the current difficulties in bringing down accidents, injuries and deaths in traffic.

Cooperative services can significantly enhance today’s driver assistance systems and tomorrow’s autonomous driving, integrating the information that the vehicle is able to procure on its own, through its sensors and its “intelligence”, with information coming directly from other vehicles, from the local road infrastructure and from other traffic players.

Cooperative services are based on hybrid communication systems, with a traditional long-distance part and a new standardized short distance, nor requiring any subscriptions or registrations.

Two equipped vehicles, close to each other, must be able to talk to each other whatever their model/brand/year of registration and without requiring a particular infrastructure. If the infrastructure is also equipped, vehicles must be able to talk to it, regardless of the location or nature of the road.

The channels must be capable of managing the exchanges in various situations of road traffic, with low latency (for some particularly critical applications) and guarantee of data protection, privacy and cybersecurity.

G5 (as standardized by ETSI and with the profiles described in the aforementioned Regulation) and C-VTX, as recently proposed, meet the requirements, while other communication systems may intervene in the future.

A communication system of this kind has the fundamental advantage of “extending the horizon” of knowledge of the driver, of the ADAS systems on board, and of the autonomous driving systems of tomorrow.

The drivers, in fact, “know” the things we can see and interpret; the on-board sensors can “see” the phenomena in their range of action and consequently the ADAS and autonomous driving systems can only rely on this information.

With cooperative systems, the driver, ADAS and autonomous driving systems will be able to be informed of events that happen outside the ”visible” horizon or cannot be detected by the vehicle. Accident/stopped vehicles behind the next curve, vehicle in arrival at an intersection, poor grip of the road surface at a short distance can be taken into account by the car.

In addition, the driver and/or ADAS and autonomous driving systems will be assisted in their interpretation of the scenario by timely and direct information (eg repetition of road signs, arrivals of ambulances or special vehicles, start of maneuver by vehicles in the vicinity and/or conflict, pedestrians in crossing), and also the time horizon will be extended (e.g. semaphores will communicate their next switching).

The self-driving cars being tested today will be among the great beneficiaries of cooperative services. They, in the vast majority, base their behavior on algorithms that work on the vehicle, using – today – only sensors installed on the vehicle itself.

They can be monitored and managed by a remote operator but they do not use – at the moment – information coming from connections with other vehicles or with the local infrastructure (in some national experimentation regulations it is allowed that the “driver” (who takes control in levels 3 and 4) is remote; the Italian regulation does not provide for this possibility).

It is quite natural that today’s research and experimentation focus on solving the problems of “totally autonomous” driving. On the other hand, however, it is evident the increase of efficiency and safety that the autonomous vehicles can obtain from the cooperative services: in the next future we’ll see the convergence of two lines of development: connectivity and automation.

Technologies
2. (photo credit: https://miro.medium.com)

Can we assume that the first C-ITS services will soon be operating in Europe within a certain regulatory framework? We could be oriented to respond positively, considering that the Regulation, in addition to containing truly operational specifications and establishing the rules for their evolution and their completion, shows a resolutive and accepted position on relevant problems.

The Regulation indeed considers issues related to Privacy and Cybersecurity. For the former, in full respect of the opinion given by the Data Protection Working Group (Oct. 2017), the regulation specifies methods to grant privacy and minimize the risk of individual tracing.

Moreover it states that, given the non-applicability of the GDPR regulation to the framework of C-ITS services, until a specific regulation is defined, personal data must not be used for commercial purposes or even for the enforcement.

Coming to Cybersecurity, in addition to establishing stringent and definitive specifications in the Regulations, the Commission declares itself ready to take charge of all support activities, until needed.

Today, however, competition between the different (two) technologies for short-range communication is taking on greater importance: we can only hope that the car equipped with the devices will appear on the market and that the first services will be launched.

In any case, it is reasonable to think that, perhaps with some delay and some changes, “a” regulation will be approved and the process of realization of the C-ITS cooperative services will be started. We should add that, however, it is only a first step: the current Regulation does not establish any obligation neither for installation on vehicles nor for implementation for the Member States.

Public and private actors remain free to decide whether and when to provide the services or to put the components on the market (remember “en passant”, that Italy has included the C-ITS services among the specifications of the DM70 of 2018) but are required to follow the specifications if they are made.

However, as the Regulation itself states, the best results in terms of accidents, congestion and CO2 emissions will only be obtained from a strategy based on a mandate (or, we add, on a binding agreement) – at least for V2V – which guarantees that all new vehicles are equipped with C-ITS devices.

To this end, “after the adoption of specifications, a separate dissemination initiative will be considered which will further analyze the efficiency and proportionality of a mandate based on the continuous development of the C-ITS sector”.

We can therefore reasonably foresee that “cooperative services ” will be part of our near future, perhaps starting next year: we must however be aware of the importance of the work that remains to be done to better guide the implementation process, interact with the European institutions and with all Stakeholders, to help guide solutions for open problems and to help national achievements: an excellent field of activity for all interested parties and institutions, including the Observatory at MIT mentioned in other articles.

General purpose connections

The “cooperative” connections, as we have seen, are useful for all vehicles, including future autonomous vehicles, for efficiency and safety reasons; other requirements will make general-purpose vehicle connections to different service providers increasingly necessary, beyond the current “driver and passenger” connections.

The need for some connection service is motivated by an easily shared reasoning. The more the more “autonomous” driving, the vehicle will have to be managed for various needs: we can mention, for example:

  • that its “current status” and its “behavior” must be monitored and, if necessary, recorded, also for the purpose of reconstruction of accidents;
  • remote driving aids (navigation, infomobility, parking reservations and supplies/top-ups, payments and the like) must be used automatically or assisted;
  • the vehicle must be able to make emergency calls;
  • remote diagnosis as well as some maintenance and management interventions – including software updates and – always by way of example – road maps must necessarily be possible ;
  • the on-board entertainment/infotainment systems must be powered by data and content;
  • finally, “remote driving” (better: remote surveillance) will become necessary, in order to make fleet management efficient and lower management cost.

These functionalities – necessary for the general and effective use of autonomous vehicles in any mode of use – require the connection of the vehicle with different service centers.

They are enabled by general “long distance” connections and, in many cases, with the possible exclusion of remote driving/surveillance, they have requirements – bandwidth, latency, coverage – that can be satisfied by current mobile networks. In applications with more stringent requirements, such as remote driving, fifth generation (5G) telephony will find its application.

5G
3.

The presence of a number of systems and services interacting with the vehicle, some of which may influence its behavior (especially in the case of the self-driving vehicle), has forced the search for technical solutions capable of simultaneously granting efficiency, on board integration on board and adequate level of protection from intrusion and external attacks (cybersecurity).

The solution that seems favored today sees the connection of the vehicle and its various applications through a single secure channel to a single “ground server”. This server, seen as an extension of the vehicle itself, communicates with all authorized service providers, ensuring safety.

This solution, technically feasible from today, has been standardized (SAE – “Extended Vehicle”). The debate is now focusing on the nature and ownership of the ground server.

According to the early position of the vehicle manufacturers, the management of the server – seen as an extension of the vehicle itself – should come under the full responsibility of the vehicle manufacturer, who would reserve the right to authorize access to third parties.

According to several Associations (including the FIA, the maintainers, the insurance world) the management of the server and authorizations should be “shared” to ensure neutrality and accessibility. This seems the only obstacle to overcome; others do not seem so important (for example, privacy and data ownership in the relationship between the user and the suppliers of the various services are regulated by the GDPR regulation).

Conclusions

The evolution towards the “connected car” is moving on along two parallel lines of development: “cooperative connections” and “general purpose” connections. The former require a strong regulation framework, which has recently taken the first step, through the Delegated Regulation, while the latter will be favored by an almost spontaneous evolution.

The concept of “connected car” is not necessarily linked – today – to the process towards “autonomous car” but, for sure, will find full application with these vehicles. Both developments need a string support and supervision from the institutional side, in order to favor efficient and shared solutions, complete and adapt the technical regulations and, where necessary, the Legislation.

  Per la versione in Italiano: https://www.stradeeautostrade.it/its-smart-road/auto-connessa-scenari-per-il-prossimo-futuro/