Connected vehicles: Moving from R&D to the road
iMOVE is firmly back from the holiday break, and is already firing on all cylinders. Since the beginning of the year, we’ve already signed up six new projects and six PhD studies. But I’d like to open the year right here to talk about a particular corner of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), connected and automated vehicles.
From the very beginning of iMOVE (in 2017) we’ve had a strong focus on ITS, and connected and automated vehicles. These technologies offer substantial improvements to road safety, traffic congestion, journey planning, and travel experience. In the intervening years, many departments of transport, technology companies, motoring organisations, traffic planners, and academics have contributed to Australia’s progress in this area.
The importance of trust
And, of course, here at iMOVE, we’ve connected researchers and companies in numerous projects in this aspect of smart mobility. I’d like to drill down into one particular project, the recently completed Ipswich Connected Vehicle Pilot: Safety and user perceptions evaluation (IVCP) with the Department of Transport and Main Roads (Queensland) and QUT.
This project expanded Australia’s experience in establishing V2X connectivity and explored the level of safety benefits that could be obtained. The ICVP produced positive results regarding user experience and perceptions of the technology. Overall, participants perceived the technology as beneficial to safety and reported that they would be interested in adopting the technology in the future with an expectation it would undergo further refinement and maturation.
Integrating into our road networks and cars
Importantly, this trust in vehicle connectivity presents a way to further improve safety on our roads. Subject to a satisfactory cost benefit analysis, we now need consider how it might be implemented. In the Ipswich trial, implementation was done by retrofitting the connectivity technology to the cars of over 300 local volunteers. Potentially that process could be implemented more widely.
Additionally, we know that many new cars, particularly from the Volkswagen group, come with the technology already fitted. It is therefore likely that the technology could be rolled out reasonably quickly.
Compatibility in connectivity
But there is a catch. Connectivity only works if the devices in each vehicle and roadside unit can communicate with each other. Unfortunately, the world has developed two different connectivity languages that are not interoperable: DSRC and C-V2X.
Not only are they not interoperable, but they both use the same radio frequency, so their deployment is mutually exclusive. If we deploy both (or allow both to be deployed) they will likely conflict with each other and deliver no benefit at all.
This mutual incompatibility is forcing Australia (and every country) to make a choice (albeit reluctantly). The task in front of us therefore, is to build some national consensus about the pros and cons of the alternative systems, and the nature of the national transport system we want to create. Hopefully from there we can identify the path that is in the nation’s best interest, and we can then work toward implementing this life-saving technology.