Intelligent Traffic Systems and V2X Communication – If Cars Could Talk
High-speed, widespread coverage of cellular networks and WiFi along with the proliferation of IoT devices has ushered in a new era of communication: connecting devices with each other and their surrounding infrastructure, or Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communication. In the context of transportation, this trend will enable the widespread adoption of Intelligent Traffic Systems (ITS) and support the development of Level 5 autonomous vehicles.
When applied to Intelligent Traffic Systems (ITS), M2M communication includes:
- Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V)
- Vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I)
- Vehicle-to-network (V2N)
- Vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P) communication.
Collectively, these technologies are referred to as V2X communication. V2V involves direct connection between vehicles to communicate relative position, speed and intended movements. V2I and V2N involve vehicles sending data to a wider network, which is then aggregated by a traffic management system. The traffic management system analyzes inputs and communicates with the connected devices (other vehicles, traffic lights, etc.) to optimize traffic flows and increase vehicle safety.
An autonomous driving future will require a high-speed, robust V2X network for vehicle control, traffic optimization and platooning. Unlike lidar, radar and cameras, V2X technology allows vehicles to “see” beyond the line of sight, giving them more time to react and adjust speed and course. We can already see an early iteration of this in autonomous shuttles, which Navya is operating in over 30 locations, and remote monitoring and control of autonomous heavy-duty trucks, which TuSimple is already operating in Arizona and Starsky Robotics is testing in Florida.
Whether widespread deployment of autonomous vehicles becomes a reality or not, V2X communication still has applications in today’s transportation system to ease congestion and idling, reduce transport emissions and increase the safety and efficiency of traffic systems. By leveraging data from Road-Side-Units (RSUs) and On-Board-Units (OBUs), V2X technology can connect cars to other cars and pedestrians, drivers and bicyclists to traffic lights. Information on traffic patterns, lights and other vehicles can be relayed to the car through WiFi or a cellular-connected vehicle’s infotainment system or even through an app on the driver’s phone, allowing the driver to adjust to safer and more efficient driving patterns. Rapid Flow Tech, a sensor developer and traffic management system operator, has found that initial deployments decrease congestion by 25% and vehicle stopping by 30% at intersections. An NHTSA study found that connected vehicle technology has the potential to reduce up to 80% of crashes where drivers are not impaired. The effectiveness and value of this technology will skyrocket as urban populations and congestion increase and more sensors and V2X-enabled vehicles are deployed. An estimated 146 million connected vehicles will be on the road by 2030, up from 31.3 million in 2017.
In 2015, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) awarded over $45 million total to three pilot sites in New York City, Wyoming and Tampa for five-year connected vehicle pilot studies. The studies are currently in the third phase (maintaining and operating the connected vehicle technology) and are expected to conclude in October 2020, at which point the technology will be fully integrated into regular traffic operations. These pilot studies, as well as others, are targeting near-term integration of V2X technology to enhance existing operational capabilities and improve safety. For example, the study in Wyoming is testing multiple applications of the technology, including forward collision warning, distress notifications and infrastructure-to-vehicle situational awareness in heavy-duty vehicles along a highway corridor to improve safety in the case of hazardous weather conditions and the presence of slow-moving or distressed vehicles.
C-V2X vs. DSRC
The market is currently divided on the use of Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) versus cellular-based, or C-V2X, communication. DSRC is a specialized form of WiFi and was developed specifically for vehicle-to-vehicle communication, which remains its primary use case. C-V2X is a cellular-based communication protocol that enables communication to surrounding infrastructure and devices. The effectiveness of C-V2X will largely depend on 5G for the low latency required for V2X communication.
V2X Technology Business Models
Stakeholders include city governments, automotive OEMs, hardware and software developers, traffic management system operators and telecommunication companies. Traffic management systems collect data from the chips and use predictive analytics and AI to analyze and interpret the data, developing models and predictions for car movements, traffic light changes and other activity. This information is then relayed back to drivers and connected devices to either influence driving patterns or traffic light patterns. Existing business models for V2X technology companies include:
- Pay-per-intersection: V2X system is sold on a per-intersection basis and the technology developer passes management of the system to the city or municipality in which the system is deployed.
- Tier 2 supplier: providing automotive OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers with sensors and software stack to develop connected vehicles and enable V2X applications that are integrated within the vehicle’s infotainment system.
- De-congestion fee: the V2X technology developer operates the traffic management system throughout a city or municipality, charging the city government a fee for congestion reduction.
Rapid Flow Technology is also exploring an as-a-service business model in which the company would maintain control of the system and generate revenue by creating new value streams for cities, such as congestion tolls.
Although the market is still nascent and much of the activity is in pilot projects, V2X technology companies are differentiating themselves based on technology, connectivity, and partnerships along the value chain and participation in pilot projects. For example:
- Connected Signals maintains a vertical focus within traffic lights and a competitive advantage through widespread connectivity. The company collects data from over 18,000 traffic systems across three continents (North America, Australia and Europe) and provides drivers with traffic light information via the company’s app, Enlighten. Through partnerships with cities, Connected Signals receives traffic light data over an internet-based standard, and then relays information on traffic lights to drivers via a cellular network to influence driving patterns. The company is also working on a project in Arcadia, CA where data is collected from bus operators (speed, location, etc.) to control traffic lights and improve fleet operational efficiency.
- Rapid Flow Tech has developed adaptive traffic signal control technology that gathers data from RSUs and OBUs and builds traffic light timing plans based on predicted traffic flows. The company’s technology is optimized for urban environments with a complex grid network and multiple competing dominant flows. Each intersection operates as a node within a distributed network by using a core algorithm to build its own timing plan then communicating that plan to downstream intersections, creating a coordinating network. Rapid Flow Tech’s largest deployment is in Pittsburgh, where the technology is integrated into 50 intersections.
- Savari is both a software and hardware developer, mainly operating as a Tier 2 software developer and cloud service provider. The company provides automotive OEMs, Tier 1 suppliers and cities with DSRC sensors, a platform-agnostic software stack and back-end cloud solutions to enable V2X applications, such as Electronic Emergency Brake Light (EEBL), Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Left Turn Assist (LTA), in-vehicle Signal Phase and Timing (SPaT) visualization, Blind Spot Warning (BSW), Curve Speed Warning (CSW) and pedestrian crossing warnings. Savari was chosen to participate in the USDOT pilot studies, accelerating the company’s technology development and deployment.
Watch out for: 5G
Singapore recently launched a $30 million initiative to test 5G network applications ahead of the planned 2020 rollout and the EU rejected a European Commission push for a wifi-based standard in July. This support for 5G, as well as other planned rollouts around the world in 2019 and 2020, will enable high-speed, low-latency C-V2X (5G-V2X), furthering the technology’s capability to support V2X communication. Look out for accelerating development of ITS and small-scale applications of C-V2X with the onset of 5G networks over the next five years.
More questions about the intersection of logistics, transportation and IoT? Join us in Singapore on 8-9 October for Cleantech Forum Asia.