Interacting with the world around them, connected vehicles take a more holistic approach to making the roads safer and more efficient.

What are connected vehicles?

Internet access alone is generally not enough for a vehicle to be considered connected. A truly connected vehicle supports two-way, real-time interaction with the world around it – such as other connected vehicles, roadside infrastructure, and traffic management systems – as part of a network known as a Cooperative Intelligent Transport System (C-ITS).

A note on the terminology here. Connected vehicle is the popularly used term, but cooperative is the more correct, and is more used in the industry. Cooperative emphasises the notion that it’s not a ‘simple’ matter of connectivity, rather it is the complex interaction between personal, vehicles, infrastructure, and other road users.

How do connected vehicles work?

Vehicle to Cloud (V2C) connected vehicle systems take advantage of mobile broadband networks in order to connect to cloud-based services. Through the cloud, they may also be able to interact with other connected devices and infrastructure. Alternatively, the vehicle may tether to a smartphone in order to take advantage of its mobile broadband connection.

Other connected vehicle systems involve cars talking directly to nearby devices via short-range wireless connections, such as the Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) and Cellular Vehicle to Everything (C-V2X) protocols, which are already appearing in some high-end vehicles.

These protocols can support Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I) communications, which is mainly used for safety, such as sharing information regarding traffic, road and weather conditions. They can also support Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V), connecting directly to other nearby cars, along with Vehicle to Pedestrian (V2P) for connecting to a range of vulnerable road users.

Relying on short-range wireless rather than city-wide mobile broadband has a range of benefits when it comes to a scenario such as helping manage traffic flow through a dangerous intersection, perhaps using a combination of V2V and V2P as well as V2I for interacting with connected traffic lights.

The low latency of short-range wireless provides minimal lag in communication, to ensure responsive real-time interaction between all parties. Short-range protocols are robust in the face of radio interference and adverse weather conditions. They also ensure that essential real-time communication is not at the mercy of poor mobile coverage or impacted by cloud or mobile broadband outages.

What is the difference between connected vehicles and autonomous vehicles?

Connected vehicles are not necessarily the same as autonomous vehicles, although the two concepts have the potential to work together.

For example, Teslas can connect to the mobile broadband, plus they support various levels of autonomy such as Auto-pilot driver assistance and Full Self-Drive (which is still in beta). These autonomy features rely on built-in cameras and onboard real-time decision-making, in an example of “edge computing”, rather than depending on a connection to the cloud or nearby infrastructure.

While Teslas can tap into basic online information such as traffic updates, they do not take advantage of technologies like DSRC or C-V2X to inform autonomous decision making or interact with the outside world. It should also be noted that even though Tesla uses the term Full Self-Driving (FSD) for its Advanced Driver Assist System, it is in fact only a Level 2 system according to the SAE Levels of Driving Automation (see table below). It is:

A driver assistance system executes specific tasks such as steering or acceleration / deceleration using information about the driving environment, with the expectation that the human driver performs all remaining aspects of the dynamic driving task.

Other current autonomous vehicle platforms are similarly self-reliant, making critical decisions onboard rather than in the cloud to avoid the risk of relying on wireless connections to external resources when making split-second driving decisions.

As such, networking technologies like C-V2X are unlikely to replace onboard autonomy platforms. Instead, these technologies will likely end up providing human drivers and onboard autonomy platforms with enhanced situational awareness – interacting with the environment so they can “see” what lies ahead, beyond the range of onboard sensors. At the same time, connected technologies will also share vehicle data and road conditions to assist other vehicles.

Levels of driving automation

The SAE Levels of Driving AutomationTM is the industry’s most cited resource. The standard defines six levels of automation for motor vehicles and their operation on roads.

0No automationThe human driver performs all aspects of the dynamic driving task, even when enhanced by warning or intervention systems.
1Driver assistanceA driver assistance system executes specific tasks such as steering or acceleration / deceleration using information about the driving environment, with the expectation that the human driver performs all remaining aspects of the dynamic driving task.
2Partial automationOne or more driving assistance systems executes specific tasks such as both steering and acceeration / deceleration using information about the driving environment, with the expectation that the human driver performs all remaining aspects of the dynamic driving task.
3Conditional automationAn automated driving system performs all aspects of the dynamic driving task with the expectation that the human driver will respond appropriately to a request to intervene.
4High automationAn automated driving system performs all aspects of the dynamic driving task, even if a human driver does not repond appropriately to a request to intervene.
5Full automationAn automated driving system performs all aspects of the dynamic driving task under all roadway and environment conditions that can be managed by a human driver.

What are the benefits of connected vehicles?

The main benefit of connected vehicles is improved road safety by alerting drivers, or autonomous driving platforms, of upcoming hazardous conditions.

Australia has already undergone several connected vehicle road safety trials. The Advanced Connected Vehicles Victoria (ACV2) platform warns drivers when a car is about to run a red light, or a pedestrian steps onto the road.

Funded as part of the state government’s Connected and Automated Vehicle Trial Grants program, in an effort to reduce the road toll, the program underwent a two-year $3.5 million trial in 2019 involving Telstra, Lexus, VicRoads and the Transport Accident Commission.

ACV2 uses artificial intelligence to study the live feed from VicRoad’s traffic camera network to spot potential hazards, rather than relying on Vehicle to Infrastructure installations at intersections. The system sends real-time alerts to a car’s dashboard, delivered via Telstra’s 4G mobile network. Quality of Service ensures the warnings take priority over other mobile data traffic and eventually the system may use Telstra’s new 5G network, taking advantage of reduced latency to deliver alerts even more quickly.

ACV2 also provides information regarding the speed limit, including advisory limits due to sharp turns, poor weather conditions or traffic congestion due to slow or stalled cars ahead.

Vehicles do not require onboard cameras and other sensors to use the ACV2 platform, although it can also work with such sensors. The platform also has the ability to add support for direct point-to-point communications, such as Vehicle to Infrastructure, in the future.

In Queensland, the Ipswich Connected Vehicle Pilot undertook a similar trial, with the results finding that a 20 per cent crash reduction is possible. In NSW, the Cooperative Intelligent Transport Initiative trialled a range of connected automated vehicle technologies in the Illawarra region.

Along with improving road safety, connected vehicles can also improve traffic flow and overall traffic management. Access to enhanced real-time traffic data can help reduce congestion, such as informing decisions to adjust variable speed limits and ramp signalling. It can also offer drivers real-time traffic updates for optimising routes.

Improving traffic flow and reducing commute times delivers a range of benefits. When considering the value of people’s time, road congestion cost the Australian economy $19 billion in 2016, according to Infrastructure Australia’s Urban Transport Crowding and Congestion report..

When it comes to emissions, a large sedan consumes around 1.5 litres of petrol per hour when idling in traffic, while pumping another 1.8 kilograms of CO2 into the atmosphere. Even when cars are not at a standstill, the slower speeds and stop-and-go conditions of traffic congestion reduces fuel efficiency.

What are the challenges of connected vehicles?

When it comes to deployment, the key challenges for connected vehicles revolve around connectivity and infrastructure.

Vehicle to Cloud communications rely on fast and dependable mobile broadband coverage, which can still be patchy even in urban areas of Australia. Other connected vehicle technologies like Vehicle to Infrastructure and Vehicle to Vehicle rely on the rollout and maintenance of roadside infrastructure also with support for Vehicle to Everything communications built into new vehicles.

All of these technologies will also rely on the finalisation of connected vehicle international standards and the willingness of various vehicle manufacturers to abide by them. This will also require the standardisation and allocation of spectrum over which connected vehicles can communicate.

As with all data management, connected vehicle manufacturers and network operators will also need to address privacy and security concerns. This may require updated regulations to keep pace with new technology, along with new security standards.

In the past few years, there have been multiple instances of cyberattacks on connected cars, where hackers have taken full control of the vehicle.

In 2015, security researchers hacked into a 2014 Jeep Cherokee via mobile broadband and used Chrysler’s onboard UConnect software to disable the brakes, turn the steering wheel and kill the engine of a moving car.

While that flaw has been patched, it is an example of the kind of vulnerability that could exist in other vehicles. For example, earlier this year, hackers at a security conference hacked into a Tesla Model 3’s infotainment system via Bluetooth and took control of the entire car.

The NSW FleetCAT trial

An overview of the 2015 NSW FleetCAT (Collision Avoidance Technology) trial. More detail available at FleetCAT – A trial of an Advisory Collision Warning System in Government Fleet Vehicles.

iMOVE, Department of Transport and Main Roads (Queensland), and QUT put an autonomous car on Queensland streets

ZOE2, is a Renault Zoe electric vehicle, modified with technology that takes the car up to a SAE Level 4 automated vehicle capability. It has trialled on the Mount Cotton test track, and also on the streets of Ipswich, Bundaberg, and Mt Isa, with members of the public taking the opportunity to take a ride in the car.

Read more about the project, its findings and recommendations, at Cooperative and Highly Automated Driving Safety Study.

Connected vehicles careers

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in this area of transport, our interview series Meet Smart Mobility Experts could help guide you.

In this series we interview a number of researchers, practitioners, department of transport executives and more. Amongst other things we cover their academic background, research activity, career progression, and more.

Connected vehicles resources

Here’s a selection of Australian strategy and project documents on the topic of connected vehicles.

Connected vehicles: Facts and figures

Ipswich Connected Vehicle Pilot: Summary of the Simulator Study Findings

  • ICVP ran between September 2020 and September 2021, involving 355 public participants in Ipswich driving their own vehicles retrofitted with C-ITS technology for a period of nine months.
  • Regarding (simulated) driving behaviour, participants statistically significantly reduced their speed when they received the warning about the emergency braking event occurring in front of the vehicle. Their speed was 3.0 kph lower on arterial roads and 5.1 kph lower on motorways after the warning was displayed on the HMI.
  • Regarding (simulated) driving behaviour, participants statistically significantly reduced their speed when they received the warning about the slow or stopped vehicle ahead of the vehicle. Their speed was 2.4 kph lower on arterial roads and 4.0 kph lower on motorways after the warning was displayed.

Ipswich Connected Vehicle Pilot Safety Evaluation

  • Five C-ITS use cases were tested, Road Works Warning (RWW), Back-of-Queue (BoQ), Road Hazard Warning (RHW), Turning Warning for Vulnerable Road users (TWVR) and Advanced Red Light Warning (ARLW). The warnings were conveyed when drivers were approaching these compromised traffic conditions at an unsafe speed.
  • Drivers in the treatment group (90%) experienced the safety warnings for six months and no warnings for three months as baseline condition. The remaining 10% of drivers (the control group) did not experience any safety warnings.
  • The crash reduction rates for the individual use cases ranged from 3-11% of the relevant crash types and additionally 22% reduction was determined from the ARLW red-light running analysis. By considering all the use cases which indicated a significant reduction in speed, the overall crash reduction rate with reference to all crashes in the SEQ road network is estimated to be 2—7%.
  • To provide an overall crash reduction factor for future foundational C-ITS deployment, the estimation of crash reduction factors was extended to include two other use cases unable to be tested on-road and so were tested in a driving simulator instead. These vehicle-to-vehicle use cases were: Slow-Stopped Vehicle (SSV) and Electronic Emergency Brake Light (EEBL). The cumulative reduction was estimated at 5-12%. When including the In-Vehicle Speed (IVS) as a likely early use case which has been assessed in another Australian study, the overall crash reduction rate for the fatal and serious injury types is estimated to be 13—20%.
  • RWW (in Event zone), BoQ, TWVR and ARLW reported a 0.9-7.9% reduction for the participants with the HMI enabled, suggesting the warnings were effective in minimising aggressive manoeuvres. In contrast, RWW in the Approach zone reported an increase of 4.7%.
  • BoQ suggested a potential reduction in near-crashes of 30-50% as a result of the HMI being enabled.
  • Fewer red-light running instances – analysis suggested a 22% reduction.
  • ICVP FOT use cases could cumulatively reduce up to 6.8% of fatal crashes and 6.6% of crashes involving serious injuries. When the vehicle-to-vehicle use cases (SSV and EEBL) are included, the cumulative reduction rates are 11.6% and 12.4% for fatalities and serious injuries, respectively. By including IVS, the overall reduction rates are estimated as 19.3% and 20.1% for fatalities and serious injuries, respectively.

Source: Ipswich Connected Vehicle Pilot: Final reports

Subscribe to iMOVE via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to iMOVE and receive notifications of new posts and projects by email.

What is iMOVE doing in the area of connected vehicles?

iMOVE is carrying out R&D in a number facets around driverless vehicles. In a more top-down approach, in What C-ITS technologies for national deployment in Australia and Accelerating the uptake of C-ITS technologies in Australia we’re laying the ground for the introduction of autonomous vehicles in Australia by ensuring we select best technologies for our roads.

That’s a smart, important move, as is the mission of bringing the public along on this transport shift. Promoting community readiness and uptake of CAVs and Cooperative and Highly Automated Driving Safety Study. How do we educate the public on this mode, and how can governments increase community acceptance and confidence? We’re finding put!

Deeper dives into the technologies have been undertaken in HD mapping Australia’s CAV future, Development and use of cooperative perception for CAVs, and Improved sensing for signalised intersections.

Connected and automated vehicles are also important additions for vulnerable road users, and in this area we’re investigating issues and opportunities via 5G aid in automated mobility for elderly and people with disability, and Australia’s Public Transport Disability Standards and CAVs.

What impact iMOVE is having in the area of connected vehicles?

iMOVE and its partners are at the forefront of work in preparing for connectivity and automation of vehicles to help make Australian roads safer.

Our research and development is being used to understand automated driving in an Australian context, including readiness of our road assets (signs, lines etc) are for AVs, how drivers behave in response to AVs, how connected vehicle technologies can be integrated in automated technologies and the general performance of the technology.

While the work we’re doing is taking place in separate locations, what we are learning is highly applicable right across Australia.

Additionally, we’re readying Australia’s next generations of experts and practitioners to help make Australian roads prepare for connected vehicles via our Undergraduate Student Industry and Industry PhD programs.

Contact iMOVE

There’s still a lot of work to be done to make Australian transport systems safer. If you’d like to talk to us about any R&D work in the area of connected vehicles please get in touch with us to start a discussion.

iMOVE connected vehicles projects

iMOVE, along with its partners, is active in carrying out R&D to advance connected vehicles technologies in Australia.

Please find below the three latest autonomous driving projects. Or click to view all iMOVE’s connected vehicles projects.


iMOVE connected vehicles PhD projects

In addition to iMOVE and its partners’ micromobility projects listed above, as part of our Industry PhD Program businesses, universities and PhD students work on an agreed topic over a three-year period.

These are the three most recent PhD projects that have been undertaken on the topic of autonomous driving. Click to view all iMOVE’s connected vehicles PhD projects.


iMOVE connected vehicles articles

In addition to projects, iMOVE also publishes articles, thoughtpieces, case studies, etc. that cover the many issues and solutions around connected vehicles.

Below are the three most recent articles. Or click to view all iMOVE’s connected vehicles articles.