From driver to driven – and how to get there

Autonomous driving will become the norm, but when, how and in what form?

The internet of things (IoT) – consisting of millions of “sensorized” connected devices and systems – and artificial intelligence (AI) – combining analytics, machine learning and algorithms – are making the world smarter and more connected.

Autonomous shuttle bus future transport
University of Michigan trials autonomous shuttle bus on a two-mile route (Photo: Mcity University of Michigan)

Together these disruptive technologies are changing how many industries operate, improving their products, systems and services, and saving costs, energy and time. The gathering, exchange and analysis of data from connected devices in real time offer many advantages. For example, smart lighting and heating systems make buildings more efficient, and connected medical wearables improve the quality of life for people with certain health conditions.

Rethinking the transport ecosystem

The transport industry is no exception. As the digitalization process continues, existing infrastructures are being updated to increase capacity for growing populations, improve safety and tackle congestion and pollution in cities by making services more green and efficient. 

At the recent Geneva International Motor Show (GIMS), visitors got a taste of the latest connected, autonomous driving technology and advances in electric and hybrid vehicles. During the show, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) organized their annual Future Networked Car symposium. Representatives of vehicle manufacturers and the automotive and information and communication technology (ICT) industries, as well as governments and their regulators gathered to discuss the status and future of vehicle communications and automated driving.

How will autonomous vehicles fit into existing infrastructures?

Russ Shields, Chair of ITU Collaboration on Intelligent Transport Systems Communications Standards said of the Geneva Motor Show, “You don’t see the hype we used to see, you actually see connected tech in the vehicles, so we have moved from 'this is coming', to 'it is here'”.

In line with this shift, the ITU symposium also addressed one of the next big concerns: how to integrate autonomous vehicles (AVs) into a mixed environment. In other words, how can fully autonomous vehicles be made to interact with people who are still driving vehicles which contain older technology? Without question, the transition phase will represent a big challenge.

Enabling innovative transportation services

Lissa Franklin, VP Business Development and Marketing, BestMile, Switzerland, addressed this question in her presentation: “Autonomous mobility is already in our streets and deployments of autonomous shuttles are blossoming worldwide, but the democratization of AVs will be impacted directly by the quality of mobility services and their integration in the existing transportation infrastructure”.

The need for global coordination and real-time optimization

In order to facilitate a smooth transition to autonomous vehicles, public transport agencies and smart cities, transport network companies, transport operators and on-demand private transport services will need to work together and develop new mobility services which integrate with autonomous vehicles. Services will include on-demand and fixed route, both of which will incorporate and need to manage a combination of human driven vehicles and AVs (hybrid fleets), as well as different brands of AVs (mixed fleets).

High-tech mobility services

IoT and AI technologies will contribute to producing the technical infrastructure required by this multi-modal transportation. It will need to consider: real-time analytics for predictive demand calculations, payment, apps, scheduling, traffic, passenger/user experiences, data intelligence, new revenue opportunities and shared autonomous services.

Why future mobility services will need International Standards

IEC has already produced many International Standards which are used to ensure the interoperability, quality, safety and reliability of many of the components of autonomous vehicles. Examples include audio, video and multimedia systems and equipment, batteries, electric vehicle charging, lighting and the all-important sensors, on which AVs rely.

IEC also works with ISO to develop Standards for information technology through its Joint Technical Committee (ISO/IEC JTC 1); many of them apply to AVs. They include cloud computing and distributed platforms and IoT and sensor networks. Most recently work has begun in the area of AI.

JTC 1 has produced a series of Standards for IT security techniques which aim to protect information by addressing security and privacy aspects.

Additionally, a number of JTC 1 Standards are included in the UNECE Systems Security Principles document for Intelligent Transport Systems and Connected and Automated Vehicles.

The future way

As large car manufacturers rethink their business models and plan new mobility products and services for an autonomous driving future, they face a number of complex issues.

Addressing the challenges through standardization

One of the great challenges in Europe lies in the fragmented nature of the markets. Each country has its own operators and service providers.

“For everyone in the industry, we need to be connected. We need networks and because we are a global company, we need networks all over the world, so obviously if we have standards we can apply everywhere, this will help accelerate this transformation”, said Pierre Masai, CIO of Toyota Motor Europe.

During his presentation, Masai stressed the need for Standards for 5G, for the mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) who will manage communications in multiple countries and jurisdictions and, very importantly, for preventing cyber attacks.

Mobility as a new service platform

Masai shared his company’s future vision of what it is doing to prepare for the next generation of connected cars.

As it moves ahead with its new mobility service platform, Toyota will be able to gather information from a digital communications module that will be installed in each new type-approved car, in other words, for cars which receive confirmation that production samples of a design will meet specified performance standards. All this information will be connected and allow interaction with the dealerships.

The global communications platform aims to offer automatic connections everywhere without needing to rely on roaming services and will enable the provision of stable, low cost, high quality services while adhering to all relevant regulations in each country and region.

A new global data centre currently being built will use the big data gathered and provide customers with all the services they want and agree to have. The global mobility services platform could eventually be leveraged to develop advanced vehicle and related mobility services for business applications.

So how will the future of driving really look?

At the same time as they move towards fully automated vehicles, key automotive manufacturers are developing high-tech, fully connected, mobility service fleet models. If the ultimate goal is to remove humans from behind the wheel, a number of questions still remain: what will AVs look like in another decade? Will urban dwellers still want to own their cars or will there be a cheaper, greener and completely new way of getting around town, perhaps along the lines of the ride hailing and ride sharing services we have already seen? Only time will tell.