The integration of autonomous vehicles and smart cities requires a close collaboration between automotive and infrastructure providers to succeed, with industry experts such as Horibs MIRA playing a key role.
The concept of connected automated mobility (CAM) considers the movement of people and how to improve every aspect of a journey by connecting autonomous vehicles with the enabling infrastructure.
The UK government has set in place plans to be a frontrunner in the development and commercialization of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs). It aims to have CAVs on the roads by 2021, with an estimated UK market worth £52bn by 2035.
The UK is a part of a global commitment to increasing the number of journeys made by self-driving vehicles in order to improve safety, reduce the cost of transportation and increase the efficiency of mobility. In order to keep pace with this evolution, a collaborative approach is required.
Collaboration holds the key
The implementation of self-driving technology represents a multi-sector challenge, requiring seamless interaction between infrastructure and vehicles, highlighted by Zenzic in the UK Connected and Automated Mobility Roadmap to 2030.
The roadmap sets out realistic targets to achieve widespread CAV adoption and says that collaboration between the public and private sector is the only way to make this a reality. It further reveals that if all the activity in the roadmap is carried out in silos and without a coordinated approach, it would take until 2079 for the UK to benefit from self-driving vehicles on the roads.
When it comes to collaboration, Horiba MIRA’s work in the development, verification and validation of CAVs has raised the key issue of greater communication and partnerships with those that are developing the vehicles of the future – automotive manufacturers and suppliers – and those that are managing the infrastructure for such vehicles to be deployed upon – highways agencies, city planners and civil engineers.
Undeniably, greater communication between these two sectors is vital not only in minimizing the length of time it takes to deploy the first generation of publicly road-worthy CAVs, but also in terms of sharing best practice and developing a joint framework that ensures such vehicles meet the highest standard of safety.
Many deployments of self-driving shuttles on public roads have been in relatively limited, geo-fenced locations, where the experience delivered is pleasant and convenient, but ultimately rather limited.
To truly understand and benchmark the capabilities of CAVs, infrastructure authorities must accommodate and encourage further trials and testing in busy urban environments, as well as on streets where multiple user types are not segregated.
With many cities around the world already piloting their own set of CAV trials, developing a best-practice approach to trialling that can be replicated anywhere in the world, and which includes a range of complex driving scenarios, is essential. Independent safety assessments with clearly-defined deployment functions and safety requirements are an essential requirement before real-world public road assessments can be conducted.
More so even than for conventional vehicles, simulation has a huge role to play in the development of CAVs. Highly automated vehicles capable of completing an entire end-to-end journey will require billions of miles of validation before deployment on the roads, with a combination of virtual and physical testing the only means of doing so within a realistic timescale. Developing physical and virtual testbeds for autonomous vehicles is an essential priority for both the automotive industry and infrastructure providers.
Almost every automotive manufacturer, taxi service providers and many tech start-ups have entered the self-driving arena over the last decade, the result being that advances and technology innovation are progressing independent of infrastructure upgrades.
Even so, it is predicted that autonomous vehicles will eventually be able to navigate safely down the road, avoiding hazards while path-planning to minimize congestion using data provided by the local authorities. The data is likely to be collected by an advanced vehicle to infrastructure communication systems with individual vehicles viewed as ‘data points’ within the road network.
While sensing data will certainly have its place, in a highly connected city, the hope is that it will be used in conjunction with powerful communications technology, where the vehicle will eventually be able to connect and learn from other vehicles.
In practical terms, it may be a case of auto makers testing and trialing CAVs using simulation that includes the latest upgrades to communications and physical infrastructure, while for the infrastructure sector, simulation can ensure any trialing activity is strategic in the context of what impact it will have on CAVs.
Amid predictions that spending on smart cities will reach £151.5bn (US$195bn) by 2023, there is no doubt that advanced mobility projects will represent a large portion of this, bringing clear benefits to society through advances in personal mobility.
To truly take advantage of this opportunity, new ways of working within both the infrastructure and automotive sectors will be required, with a greater need to come together with a more coordinated approach if connected and autonomous mobility is to become a reality.
Start of the smart city
There are already strong real-world case studies where collaboration between infrastructure and the automotive sector is working, with input from Horiba MIRA. November 2018 saw the successful completion of the UK Connected Intelligent Transport Environment (UK CITE) project, a 30-month government and industry co-investment to create an advanced environment for testing connected and autonomous vehicles on the public roads.
It involved equipping over 40 miles (65km) of urban roads, dual-carriageways and strategic highways in Coventry and Warwickshire (M40, M42, A45 and A46) with combinations of three vehicle to infrastructure communications methods, and track testing for a fourth, known as LTE-V.
UK Autodrive was another groundbreaking three-year collaboration that explored the use of infrastructure and autonomous and semi-autonomous technology on public roads in Coventry and Milton Keynes. As well as developing self-driving technology, UK Autodrive, which completed at the end of 2018, set out to explore the use of car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure communications in order to understand the impact of CAV technology on public acceptance and perception of the technology.