Future of Connected Transportation: Easy

Future of Connected Transportation: Easy

This piece was originally published in the December 2018 issue of electroindustry.

Bryan Mulligan introduced a panel on the Future of Connected Transportation. The panelists, who explained how real-time data can improve safety and mobility on the road, represented the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), Panasonic USA, and the Ford Motor Company. The companies collaborated on a connected vehicle platform to save lives along the 90-mile stretch of I-70 from Golden to Vail.

Standards, Mr. Mulligan predicted and panelists agreed, will play an essential role in connected transportation. The government’s role, however, is shifting. With the evolution of roadway infrastructure from concrete to one that utilizes information and communication technologies, the dynamic is changing to one in which governments set goals, objectives, and outcomes and the private sector chooses the technologies and methods that enable them.

In response to what he called a “hodgepodge of state and local policies,” he said that the industry is responding with a “collaboration between automotive and infrastructure folks.”

Amy Ford, Chief of Advanced Mobility, Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT)

“Data is the new concrete,” Amy Ford observed in her comments, referring to Colorado’s innovative RoadX system to improve driving, safety, and navigation apps by using real-time data.

Ms. Ford envisions smarter systems in infrastructure, like ramps and gates that improve the flow of traffic and decrease the need for additional lanes, and virtual guardrails that “talk to” cars to prevent crashes and aid in finding drivers who go off treacherous mountain roads. Smart pavement through a mountain pass, for example, will immediately alert first responders if a vehicle leaves the roadway. Future capabilities include inductive charging of electric vehicles.

Furthering her prediction that the future will be autonomous and electric, Ms. Ford wowed the audience with a documentary of the autonomous 18-wheel tractor-trailer, Otto, on its one-time, 120-mile beer haul from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs along I-25.

Kellen Pucher, Director, Strategic Initiatives, Connected Vehicles, Panasonic USA

According to Kellen Pucher, “Today’s cars have a lot to say.” As automobiles move from analog vehicles to data machines, the communication between vehicles and infrastructure is evolving from:

  • Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V)—relies on equipment inside vehicles
  • Vehicle-to-infrastructure and infrastructure-to-vehicle (V2I/I2V)—relies on roadside infrastructure
  • Vehicle-to-everything (V2X)—interacts with a tiered data environment

V2X will increase roadway capacity, decrease crashes, reduce time spent in traffic, and reduce environmental impact by taking advantage of wireless communications.

In 2000, Mr. Pucher explained, the first connected cars had about a million lines of code. By 2010, that number was up to 10 million lines, which is more than an F-35 fighter jet. Today, an average car has more than 100 million lines of code.

“The operating system of the smart roads of the future will encompass the IoT, cloud analytics, and an open ecosystem,” he concluded.

Kathleen Baireuther, Senior Manager, Smart Mobility’s City Solutions, Ford Motor Co.​

In her opening remarks, Kathleen Baireuther quoted Bill Ford, chairman of Ford Motor Co., as observing that “the mobility model that we have today simply will not work tomorrow. We are going to build smart cars, but we also need to build smart roads, smart parking, smart public transport systems, and more.”

To accomplish that vision, the company relies on connectivity. Today, that means connecting to the cloud with standard mobile devices. Ultimately, as long-range 5G technology becomes available, connectivity will enhance autonomous vehicles (AVs) and automated driving. The company’s approach to AVs focuses on combining human-centered technology with innovative business models.

Being in the auto industry now, Ms. Baireuther concluded, encompasses urbanization, an expanded middle class, concerns about air quality, and—perhaps most instructive—consumer attitudes. As an example, she noted that curb management is replacing parking as a traffic priority.

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