Broader data sharing for connected transportation will require widespread collaboration

  • 08-Oct-2014 09:41 EDT
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Ford envisions plenty of communication between cars and a wide range of transportation management systems.


As populations in sprawling urban areas rise, commuting will become a bigger challenge. Connected cars are likely to leverage connectivity to help commuters reach destinations using different modes of transportation, further driving development teams to collaborate more extensively within their companies and with outsiders from many fields.

In the future, executives predict that cars, buses, and trains will all share data to help travelers best manage their transportation needs. One top executive feels that connected vehicles need to be part of a vast network of all transportation options that will provide data that commuters can use to decide whether to travel, then how to reach their destination.

“I believe all forms of transportation need to be on the same network; the car is one element in the environment,” Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford said at the recent ITS World Congress in Detroit.

Public transportation managers note that with one comprehensive network, commuters would have enough data to pick their mode of transportation. Sometimes, they could decide to reschedule appointments to account for travel times.

“The problem is not that commutes are five minutes or one hour longer, the problem is not knowing,” said Klaus Schierhackl, a Director of ASFINAG, Austria’s toll collection agency. “If you know the commute’s one hour longer, you can plan accordingly.”

However, creating this large network is no small feat. Transit agencies, transportation departments, and automakers will all have to agree on communication protocols. They will also have to ensure that information is up to date at all times. Synchronizing this info is another facet of the technical challenges.

“We need a network of solutions, stitching things together to address different travel solutions,” said James Buczkowski, Director, Global Electrical/Electronic Systems Engineering, at Ford Motor Co. “We need seamless transitions to keep things operating at the same time.”

Creating this broad network is likely to further extend the number of cooperative efforts undertaken by automakers. The shift to telematics is among the factors that have prompted many OEMs to work more extensively with a broad range of third parties. Vehicle-to-vehicle communications, which use 5.9-GHz dedicated short range communications technology, may well become another.

“We need to collaborate,” said Jon Lauckner, CTO at General Motors. “We also need standards, not only in automotive folios but in other folios. Standards are especially important for the 5.9-GHz frequency. We all have to be working on the same frequency for vehicle-to-vehicle communications or we’ll get a Balkanized mess, like in the charging infrastructure when everyone installed different equipment until the SAE put some standards together.”

Some of these cooperative efforts will require changes in the way OEMs operate. As automakers try to leverage the rapid changes of Web-based communications, there’s a fair chance that they will be working with startups or companies that are far smaller than Tier 1s.

“If we are going to be successful, we have to work with small companies,” Bill Ford said. “We can’t overwhelm them with requirements or overburden them with requests.

OEMs will also have to tighten the links between teams throughout the enterprise. Infotainment and telematics systems may have to communicate with safety systems to ensure that drivers are protected even if they are distracted, for example. Similar interactions will be needed if vehicle-to-vehicle communications systems call brakes and steering into action.

“Connected vehicles have a huge impact throughout the industry,” Buczkowski said. “We need to break down barriers within the organization, groups that have never worked together have to share information. This is true within the company and without. We need to move from a components view to systems engineering, looking at everything.”

While automotive developers will focus on technical issues, legislators will play a role in the development of large transportation networks that include public agencies. Legal issues such as who owns data will have to be determined.

“The technical solutions are out there,” said Ananth Prasad, Secretary, Florida Department of Transportation. “Getting the public policies we need around those technologies is a difficult challenge. Where the public policy ends and the private sector begins is in question. The lines are blurred.”

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