September 22, 2010 22:09 rlanctot
|IntelliDrive, the USDOT program intended to create intelligent highways, stands at the crossroads of major funding and deployment decisions but may be overlooking a solution capable of realizing the smart roadways dream in the twinkling of an eye – relative to current timelines. To do so, though, may mean setting aside, for now 5.9GHz DSRC technology in favor of a technology most recently associated with bad driving behavior.
Smartphones and the cellular network hold the key to the deployment of wireless systems and services capable of revolutionizing automotive safety and achieving the dream of safe connected highway systems. This goal can be achieved through opt-in solutions that provide for the sharing of device data and could serve as a transitional technology between existing systems and the DSRC technologies not likely to be deployed for another 5-10 years.
Alternatively, the government could step in with its regulatory and legislative powers and mandate the provisioning of cellular data transmissions for connected vehicle communications. (Such a scheme was described to me by an ITS America member at the recent Distracted Driving event in
Washington, DC. The executive asked to remain anonymous because his proposal may actually be at odds with the short-term interests of his employer.)
So cellular technology, which is already part of the IntelliDrive vision along with DSRC and Wi-Fi, can be used as a transitional alternative to DSRC on a voluntary or involuntary basis. (DSRC is universally preferred for safety applications because of its low lacency.) On the involuntary side, concept is to require smartphones to share their location data and to be used for the reception of targeted emergency or road sign messages. The proposition involves a monthly charge to the subscriber of approximately 10 cents – not unlike the current eight-cent charge for mandated 911 calling on mobile phones – to cover the cost of the first 500Kb of monthly data use on the phone for ITS purposes.
(It is worth noting as an aside that Wi-Fi technology has already been pioneered – notably by Dash Navigation – as a V2V technology for communicating highway and traffic conditions. With Wi-Fi technology proliferating on smartphones it will not be long before this same capability emerges in the handset space.)
Confronted with this opportunity opponents are quick to note the privacy and liability concerns associated with cellular (and Wi-Fi) technology and the need for, at the very least, an opt in mechanism. The bottom line is that these concerns are not insurmountable and a mandated system is feasible.
Opening up a data channel on all phones for location data and automatic crash notifications (transmit) and in-vehicle messaging (receive) will open the door to wide adoption of telematics technology and achieve the goal of connecting vehicles to the infrastructure, in-vehicle messaging and to emergency services. The business models to support the service rationale are not unlike those for RDS-TMC, 911 and 511 services, which means this solution is designed to be low cost but still requires some third party support from private companies.
The barriers to be overcome are numerous and include – inter-carrier cooperation, the creation of a data clearinghouse for processing and filtering data, and the creation of a broadcast mechanism most likely via multiple private entities. Achieving comprehensive deployment on mobile phones will also require federal legislative and regulatory action.
Because the mobile phone-based system will pay for itself while also taking advantage of ubiquitous handset technology and the cellular network it has massive advantages over the proposed DSRC-based system. The 5.9GHz DSRC technology will require BOTH auto maker support for an added module and antenna AND a huge deployment of transmitters and receivers along roadsides and the corresponding data processing infrastructure.
DSRC is inevitable, but why must the driving public wait for a solution that will save lives. If the mandated approach is too onerous, then it is more or less left to private enterprise to implement their own prove networks along the lines of Waze and the CloudMade communities which are multiplying around the world.
These emerging networks have the capability to bring these services to market almost immediately. More importantly the proliferation of OBDII connections (admittedly using wireless communication protocols claimed by Hughes Telematics) means smartphones are also capable of communicating vehicle sensor and camera data, further enhancing the value of the proposed systems. The proliferation of low-cost sensor and camera systems means there is a wealth of available inputs such a system can put to work to enhance safety, reduce congestion and hazardous driving conditions, and improve the overall driving experience.
In fact, the proliferation of smartphones and inexpensive cameras and sensors are rapidly combining to mitigate the demand for the IntelliDrive DSRC vision. Consumers and industry representatives may discover after the implementation of a smartphone based network sharing vehicle and sensor data and communicating traffic conditions, the incremental enhancement of DSRC deployment is unnecessary.
The concept also suggests that those car makers with embedded systems should be able to gain an advantage from having more direct and complete control of the user experience. And those car makers with existing probe networks will gain the first-mover advantage of having a larger volume of inputs to process for the benefit of their subscribers.
Facilitating the implementation of this vision will be the rapid development and deployment of handset connectivity technology. From terminal mode to
Delphi’s D-Connect and Apple’s iPod out, the technology is rapidly falling into place – alongside OBDII communications and sensor proliferation to facilitate the communication of traffic and other urgent messages to primary and secondary displays in the car.
In fact, the mobile phone industry is facing the prospect of a handset FM receiver mandate that will create yet another pathway for communicating information into the vehicle either via the on-board radio or via the mobile phone. The handset FM mandate is intended mainly for the transmission of emergency alerts, but will also enable regular FM transmissions.
The concept of using mobile phones and cellular technology to supplant or serve as a transitional solution to the proposed DSRC network for V2X communications is radical and lacks an advocate as a mandate but is already emerging as a voluntary solution in the form of discreet smartphone applications and related user communities. The mandate path is likely to die since the very companies that most recognize its value – those with currently deployed embedded telematics systems - have the most to lose from its implementation. Other market participants such as content and applications providers and even telecommunications carriers may also be opposed to a mandated proposition as it threatens existing business models and relationships.
But all parties are beginning to recognize the mobile phone as the key to solving multiple safety challenges in the vehicle. Whether anticipating hazardous intersections (Global Mobile Alert) or sharing probe data (Waze, TrafficTalk) the smartphone has established its credentials as a safety device. The phone also benefits from the support of a rich developer community rapidly moving smartphone technology into realms not previously foreseen.
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