Joe Averkamp on how the opening of Michigan’s Mcity represents a significant leap forward in the development of automated and connected vehicles
The grand opening of Mcity on 20 July 2015 marked a favorable start for the future of the Mobility Transformation Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Mcity is a key part of the research and development effort assembled by the University of Michigan and Michigan Department of Transportation, and includes 15 core companies called Leadership Circle members, of which Xerox is one. At the grand opening of Mcity, Bosch demonstrated their driver assist system, Delphi featured their self-driving car, and Honda showcased vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P) technology using a Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) device in a Honda Accord which sends a safety message to a pedestrian with a cellular phone.
The Grand Opening and what it represents
On display as part of the opening event was a system that Xerox has developed which determines whether a vehicle is High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) qualified or not. Xerox Vehicle Passenger Detection System can establish whether a car is a Single Occupancy Vehicle or a High Occupancy Vehicle using machine vision – Xerox has a long history with image analysis. The company has piloted this solution in several locations and can determine the occupancy status with more than 96 per cent accuracy. By displaying this on a roadside message sign and also transmitting the status over DSRC to an Android tablet, the Xerox demonstration illustrated not only the capability of Xerox VPDS, but also showed how the data could be applied to in-vehicle signage. The specific use case may be alerting a roadside enforcement officer over DSRC, or providing occupancy status at a Border Crossing location, or as part of a Ferry Loading application.
Xerox also demonstrated its MERGE® solutions, a city-wide smart parking solution that enables guided parking, predictive enforcement, meter and pay-by-cell management, and demand-based pricing – all layered with analytics to increase parking program efficiencies and reduce traffic congestion. CloudParc technology was so displayed which uses cameras and small computers mounted on traffic poles to track the availability of spaces and transmit the information to tablet devices within vehicles. The information guides drivers to available parking spots.
Figure 1: Mcity From The Air
Mobility Transformation Center: An Overview
Mcity is one component of a multi-pronged research approach that the University of Michigan has put together with its Leadership Circle members, and is the most visible effort currently being pursued by the Michigan Mobility Transformation Center (MTC).
The participants in the Leadership Circle at the MTC include: General Motors, Ford, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Bosch, Delphi, Denso, State Farm Insurance, Navistar, Iteris, Econolite, Verizon, Qualcomm, and of course, Xerox. These companies along with Michigan DOT and the University of Michigan are collaborating to advance transportation systems.
The University of Michigan and specifically University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) have been heavily involved in the connected vehicle program at USDOT. Namely, UMTRI conducted the Safety Pilot Model Deployment which measured the effectiveness of DSRC for vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) safety. Through this extensive research effort, Michigan has developed significant expertise around DSRC and automotive systems. Michigan is now seeking to extend this research work into new areas.
Among the key components of the research approach are:
- Pillar 1: Connected Ann Arbor and Mcity – This area of focus is intended to provide a controlled test environment at Mcity and in neighboring Ann Arbor locations. Participants in the MTC are able to use Mcity and surrounding locations to deploy and test new concepts.
- Pillar 2: Connected Southeast Michigan – This component of the research effort is to explore and develop connected vehicle approaches that can then be utilized elsewhere. Pillar 2 includes 120 miles of roadway which will be instrumented with DSRC Roadside Units (RSUs) as well as other Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) components which can improve safety and mobility on the roadway.
- Pillar 3: Autonomous Southeast Michigan – This research thrust is focused on developing the systems, policy approaches, and business ecosystem essential to promoting autonomous vehicles. Through this collaboration, participants seek to define, in a pre-competitive fashion, how autonomous vehicles will interact with each other and the roadside.
How The Transportation Landscape Is Changing
Most people do not associate Xerox with transportation initiatives. Xerox has a long history of innovation and developing print and document management solutions. In 2010, Xerox acquired Affiliated Computer Services (ACS), a leading provider of intelligent transportation solutions.
Through the acquisition of ACS, Xerox now manages many of the largest toll collection back offices in the US, provides fare collection systems for many of the largest systems in the world, provides services to municipalities managing large parking systems, and also provides operational support for commercial vehicle operations to HELP, Inc. In addition, Xerox runs transit fleet management systems, and camera enforcement businesses for its customers.
Xerox participates at the MTC because the next generation of transportation solutions will involve some significant shifts in the way we travel. Among the key shifts are:
- Sharing economy – The rise of car services such as Uber and Lyft, as well as the increasing use of car sharing services such as Car2Go and ZipCar indicates that vehicle ownership models are changing. Millennials are less likely to own vehicles, and expect transportation to be reliably available when they summon the service. Transportation is more about access to a service and less about ownership of an asset (a vehicle). This is a long term trend—private vehicle ownership is not going away soon—but this will have a meaningful effect on the transportation ecosystem.
- Autonomous vehicles – For many people in the transportation world, reducing driver distraction has been the key objective. How can we effectively manage activities that distract the driver from their primary task—driving? The autonomous vehicle paradigm turns this question on its head—for a self-driving car, driving is the distraction! For many individuals, maneuvering the vehicle takes the focus away from the meaningful tasks of answering emails, planning your calendar, and talking on the phone. The reality is that for repetitive, monotonous task such as navigating stop-and-go traffic, machines are, in many instances, superior to humans. Whether we will see movement to a completely autonomous vehicle is as much as discussion about societal acceptance and policy/regulatory issues as it is about the underlying technology. There is little doubt that the technology to provide self-driving capability in many circumstances is here, but the question will be when can the passenger/driver rely entirely on the self-driving capability.
- Connected vehicles – Wireless technologies have made tremendous leaps over the last 20 years with respect to data throughput and reduced latency for connection times. In addition, issues with roaming have been solved, and coverage, while still challenging in some environments, is less of an issue. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) is currently considering a mandate that would require DSRC be built in new vehicles for safety. In addition to the basic safety message that is intrinsic to the NHTSA effort, there will be other opportunities to exploit the increased connectivity. Vehicles are also going to need to be equipped for vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications to support their safe and efficient operation. Among the updates to be sent are very granular, localized reports for traffic, information about road and pavement conditions, and data related to work zones. All of these are very dynamic conditions which are rapidly changing that the driver (or the driverless car) will benefit from knowing. The V2I link may take a variety of forms: DSRC, Long Term Evolution (LTE) or LTE Direct. Depending upon the application, there may be a mix of wireless protocols used. Some applications require broad coverage and will be most suitable for delivery over LTE or Satellite. Other applications may require lower latency and to be transmitted over a shorter range; these applications are most suitable for delivery over LTE Direct or DSRC.
Figure 2: Wireless Protocols and Applications
|Personal Area Network (PAN)||Local Area Network (LAN)||Wide Area Network (WAN)||Continental Wide Area Network (CWAN)|
|Example||Bluetooth||WiFi (Network LAN) DSRC (P2PLAN)||4GLTE, 3G Networks||Satellite Radio|
|Attributes||10 meter range||300-1200 meter range||10-50 km range||5000 km range|
|Applications||Handsfree, Personalization||DSRC: Collision avoidance, left turn assistance, intersection movement assist
WiFi: Email, map downloads, navigation
LTE Direct: Uses LTE protocol with lower latency
|Map downloads, route navigation, traffic updates, Email, Social media, etc.||Security credential update, system update|
- Road Funding Mechanisms – This is another major shift in the transportation space. Current road funding relies on gas tax receipts or tolls. Historically, the gas tax and gallons of gas used have served as a good proxy for road use. With the introduction of hybrids, and electric vehicles, gas tax receipts are a less accurate representation of road use. For users driving all-electric vehicles such as the Tesla, the vehicle driver does not pay for use of the freeway (outside of a toll). States such as Oregon are introducing Road Use Charging schemes that more directly link road miles used to the payment of the road use tax. This typically involves the introduction of technologies such as GPS and wireless to establish road usage.
- Rise of hybrids and electric vehicles, increased CAFE standards, focus on eco-driving – Each of these areas will have an impact on the transportation system of the future. Among the key drivers in this category is the increase in Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. By 2025, automakers are required to deliver vehicles that provide an average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon. This is a significant improvement of approximately 20 mpg over current requirements.
Given the company’s position in the industry, and the significant changes that are outlined above, Xerox sees the MTC as an opportunity to collaborate with other key participants in the eco-system to define next generation transportation solutions. Xerox is a leading supplier of tolling, transit, and parking solutions, so it is important to have a role in the design and evolution of these systems.
One of the major benefits that the MTC brings is that as the major problems are considered, the participants seek to address not only the technology or product implementation issues, but also the policy, regulatory, statutory, and commercial. By understanding and collaborating in the development of each of these key areas, Xerox is convinced that collectively as an industry we can deliver an improved transportation experience to our system users. The MTC provides a framework for infrastructure providers to cooperate with automakers and auto industry participants in the definition of the road map. Future systems – autonomous, connected, or both – will rely increasingly on cooperation between infrastructure and vehicles. The MTC provides the framework to facilitate this cooperation.
Xerox sees an opportunity to explore the next generation of transaction payments systems for transportation and information dissemination systems (parking availability, dynamic speed changes) by development that will be first envisioned and embodied at the MTC.
Figure V: Mcity Grand Opening
Figure W: Xerox Vehicle Passenger Detection System at Mcity
The basic capability of making an occupancy determination and then transmitting this over DSRC provides a glimpse of many use cases that could be exploited by marrying the various technologies.
Figure X: Results of the Xerox vehicle Passenger Detection Displayed on the DMS and Tablet
While the demonstration of Xerox Vehicle Passenger Detection System coupled with DSRC is only a small example of what can be delivered, it illustrates the promise of what can be achieved at the MTC. The ability to collaborate on a variety of issues with other industry leaders in a rapid deployment environment enables the early identification of problems and the development of solutions.
As described above, the transportation landscape is changing. Autonomous vehicles, connected vehicles, new funding schemes, car sharing systems, increasing CAFÉ standards and the evolution of societal thinking on what vehicle ownership means all contribute to very promising future, and present a host of challenges to the designers of the next generation transportation ecosystem and infrastructure.
Joe Averkamp is Senior Director, Technology, Policy and Strategy at Xerox Transportation