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Autonomous and connected vehicles: a view from Europe

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The European Commission expect to see fully autonomous vehicles by 2040. (Source: Getty)

I attended the first ever European Commission European Conference on Connected & Automated Driving (CAD) in early April. Next generation transportation and vehicle connectivity was the theme. The European Commission expect to see fully autonomous vehicles by 2040. This means Driverless vehicles.

In October 2016 the Declaration of Amsterdam was signed by all 29 countries in recognition of connected mobility, the collaborative opportunities for member states with the aim to achieve cooperation in the field of connected and automated driving across Europe.

Why are Connected Autonomous Vehicles so important to Europe?

1. The biggest priority is to save lives. There are 70 deaths a day on European roads. This is 26,000 per annum. A high percentage of these deaths occur because of human error. When you take the human out of the loop the vehicle and the vast array of sensors, infrastructure and data will prevent many of these deaths from happening.

2. Secondly, congestion costs approximately €1bn a day. By removing traffic jams and inefficiencies on the street and highways there will be an economic gain as well as a better quality of life for populations.

3. Thirdly, even if vehicles are still powered using combustion engines, there will be a positive environmental impact through the more efficient use of vehicles and infrastructure. However it is envisioned that more and more vehicles will be electric thus adding substantially to a greener environmental impact.

To achieve success the industry has created an incremental scale or roadmap to achieve fully autonomous vehicles. This scale starts at zero, where zero represents no automation, your traditional manual vehicle, and 5 represents fully automated driverless vehicles. See scale and description below.

Examining the scale it is obvious to many new car owners that we have begun the journey to autonomous vehicles. Today many new cars are equipped with driver assist such as cruise control and self-parking capabilities. These are levels 1 and 2. If you are lucky enough to own a Tesla even level 3, conditional automation is available, where the driver can take their hands off the steering wheel and let the car take control.

From the technology side of things there are some very clear messages from Europe. There must be a “strong architectural approach” and open access with shared API’s. Commissioner Bulc presented a simple 5 layer architecture:

  • Network
  • Service Solution
  • Applications
  • Data
  • Infrastructure

Collaboration is essential. For a fully connected and autonomous vehicle to be realised many industries need to work together (not to mention government policy, legal, regulation etc). A connected vehicle will require many technologies that car manufactures don’t provide.

According to Deutsche Telecom, it’s not only vehicles that will need to be connected but also pedestrians and cyclists. Vehicles will need to be able to communicate with other vehicles (Vehicle to Vehicle: V2V communications) and also with the streets and other infrastructure like sing posts, bridges, footpaths (Vehicle to Infrastructure: V2I Communications) in order to navigate safely. To achieve this vehicle manufactures and teleco’s will need to work together. Latency is the most important issues for them – Latency is the amount of time it takes a message to be delivered and understood by the compute parts of the infrastructure.

Cyber Security was topic de jour. Terminology that we are familiar with today from the software and security industries were discusses such as ‘security by design’ which means that security for vehicles is not an additional add on at a later stage but all aspects of security must be considered and designed into the vehicle through all stages of the design and development process.

A massive 5gb of data will be generated every hour by a fully autonomous vehicle.

Some other interesting points discussed at the Conference included:

  • Car ownership will reduce and private cars will be shared.
  • There may be significant job losses but jobs will also be created.
  • Significant social impact.
  • Variable road pricing may be needed. Tax As You Go.
  • Unexpected uses for vehicles – we don’t know what is going to happen.
  • A change in the way regulation is defined may be required.
  • Trials needed especially cross border.
  • Potential - freight transport and self-driving taxis.

There is recognition at a European level that this is going to be an inevitable disruptor. Find out more here.

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