The advancements, and in some cases “convergence,” of technologies such as computer processing, communications, artificial intelligence, data analytics, traffic control, transportation management, coupled with advancements within the automotive industry such as Automated Driving Systems (ADS), have afforded us an opportunity to plan, design, and implement a more integrated, and connected multi-modal transportation system, says Abbas Mohaddes. But how much further can we go? How much more connected can we become?

We are bearing witness to a truly transformative age as many companies are working toward developing subsystem components and integration of systems to create a larger connected ecosystem – while many public and regulatory agencies are focused on guidelines, standards, and collaborative activities to help make it happen. Test sites, pilot programs, innovative labs are being established, with billions of dollars of research committed to accelerate the development worldwide.

The promises of the connected ecosystem provide new levels of mobility, livable communities, and ease of accessibility to all parts and functions of the Smart community. While the new technologies and certain aspects such as safety, liability and consumer acceptance receive the lion’s share of media attention, connected mobility must address some fundamental issues such as consumer, and publicly elected officials’ education and outreach, institutional issues related to multimodal, equity, reliability, transitional, and broad deployment among many others.

A few of the issues that I think are key regarding Connected and Automated Vehicle (CAV) activities and the relevance to traffic management is addressed in this article.

A glance at the last five years

Google and Silicon Valley had a great start in developing autonomous technologies, receiving tremendous attention from the media and, of course, the industry. Although it took Detroit a while to see the business models, the trends, and perhaps the demand, they are now in the game in a big way. The great news for the consumer is that Silicon Valley and Detroit are actually collaborating as they are both acknowledging the others’ strengths.

The participation is broad, from Google (Waymo) to Uber and Toyota, to GM and Ford, and many others developing, collaborating and creating new technical innovation and business models. Government agencies are engaging in various levels such as development of guidelines, standards, addressing infrastructure requirements and other issues. While many entities, including insurance companies, are looking at liability others are addressing legal issues, cybersecurity and so on. Some are focused on developing and leveraging robust and secure networked infrastructure systems to continuously improve the collection, aggregation, analytics and use of “big” data.

Vehicle manufacturers have been developing ADAS technologies for well over a decade, and in recent years these technologies have been accelerating. Many OEMs are offering level 2 automation features (automation levels 1 through 5 described by SAE) within the next few years. Moreover, research and development commitments have been made to produce level 4 and 5 automations within the next five to seven years – targeting a market projected to be in the billions of dollars.

There are many issues to be addressed such as liability, cybersecurity, roadway and operational impacts, land use and parking impacts, readiness and many others, but the following have especially been on my mind lately.

Outreach and Education

There is a need for a comprehensive (and significant) outreach and education for consumers, public officials and media alike. Some of the recent surveys reveal a lack of interest in driving automated vehicles or use of key ADAS features to a level of about 40 percent. Typically, most of the awareness about automated vehicles today is limited to what is covered by the media in reaction to a particular story on partnership announcements, incidents and dramatized activities. Key stakeholders such as vehicle manufacturers, related technology companies, ride share services, public agencies, academia, trade organizations, and others should collaborate and develop an informational outreach strategy to tackle this lack of awareness through massive education and advertising programs.

Shared Mobility

This is moving fast with new and exciting business models. Consumers are driving it and, because of it, the technology is becoming broadly affordable. We will see the fully automated (and hopefully connected) vehicles soon. Will it compete with or complement transit? I hear a lot of predictions and arguments from both sides. However, I think we need both modes and strategies and no doubt they will complement each other. It is an “early-to-market” type of product and service and, as a result, investment has been flowing into it significantly. As an example, at the end of August 2018, Toyota committed to a US$500m investment in Uber.

Transition Time

There are various estimates as to how long it will take to have, say, 50 percent of the vehicles fully automated in urban areas. A 10- to 15-year estimate is probably not that far off. It is obvious to me that for many years we will have a combination of vehicles with varying levels of automation on the road. This is going to be very challenging for drivers, infrastructure owners (municipalities) and maintainers, enforcement agencies and others. Indeed, much of our efforts should be focused on these transition “years” of varying levels of vehicle connectivity and automation.

Related to this is that connectivity will continue to gain traction and automated vehicles will also become even more connected. The other part of this equation, is that as more vehicles are connected, they will have increasing levels of automation.

The transition time affords us to carefully develop and realize the potential of V2I, V2V and IoT technologies. The investment in this area is rapidly expanding as certain service providers are preparing for significant expansion in bandwidth, high-speed processing and edge computing. Verizon and other communication providers are investing heavily in 5G.

What is the Most Important CAV Component at the intersection?

With CAV traffic management being arguably the most influential part of the Smart City connected ecosystem, what is the most important part of the CAV traffic management system? I would argue that it is the traffic controller. The traffic controller will represent the most critical connected link of the intersection. It also controls the traffic signals at the intersection, collects the necessary data via detection systems and vehicles, processes the data and applies analytics to turn it into actionable information, “interacts” with vehicles, provides the critical link to other parts of the Smart City infrastructure and much more!

It will be more than just the heart of the automated and connected infrastructure that it is currently and will continue to be the intelligence at the connected intersection.

Abbas Mohaddes is President and COO of Econolite