How Automotive IoT is Shaping Wireless Networks

June 1, 2017 Tasking

smart city wireless communication network

When I bought my car, it was a big deal that it could use bluetooth and sync to my phone for calls and music. The sales guy went on and on about it. I mostly listened to the radio on scan, so this was not a key feature for me, but I’ve come to love the hands-free calling. Last year, my friend bought a newer model of the car, and the bluetooth communication has expanded to maps, Pandora, and other apps. However, they are all still accessed via a cell phone. Now, cars and other vehicles are being designed with increasing connectivity and automation, making them a high-value addition to the IoT.

Features like real-time software updates, live feedback to drivers and insurance, predictive maintenance, and traffic management are all being developed and tested. However, wide scale deployment of these features requires connectivity solutions that aren’t dependent on the driver’s cell phone acting as a hub.

Using cellular connections for cars

Connecting a car to the internet provides a unique set of challenges since the device itself is generally in motion when you need network access. The easiest answer is connecting the car itself to a cellular network, since many of the potential problems, such as rapid connection handoffs, have already been solved.

alt text: smartphone with application dashboard

The most common way to connect cars to the internet is via cell phones.

In order to make cellular connections in cars effective, 5G networks need to be widely deployed. 5G will provide a network that’s about 100X faster than LTE, enabling connectivity with both the stability and data rates necessary for real-time information management under rapidly changing environmental parameters, like traffic, obstacles, or weather.

WiFi enabled vehicles

If you’ve flown recently, you may have had the opportunity to pay exorbitantly for use of their in-flight WiFi. Buses and trains frequently have WiFi access, too. Scaling these systems for cars is appealing, both for use in the vehicle and for connecting the vehicle itself to the cloud. In particular, WiFi networks over short distances to other cars or local systems, like dedicated short-range communications (DRSC), may supplement other network options when coverage is limited or unavailable.

Emerging automotive connection technology

Although cellular is definitely the incumbent, plenty of other companies are working to develop new communications infrastructure for vehicles.

  • Valeo: They are building secure, high-speed connection options using both onboard telematics, and mobile connectivity technology.

  • Cohda Wireless: Specializing in wireless communication for automotive safety, they’ve had some major interest and investments from companies like Cisco and NXP.

  • Huawei: China is probably the largest market for connected and autonomous vehicles, and Huawei Technologies is working with several Chinese automakers to cooperate on their technology development.

Connectivity in autonomous cars

“Connected cars” are different from “autonomous cars,” although there’s certainly overlap. For example, not all manufacturers are designing autonomous cars to utilize external navigation (most notably Tesla). Instead, these cars would be self-contained, not dependent on a network connection. Even so, vehicle to vehicle (V2V) communication is likely to be a critical aspect for most autonomous cars, allowing them to update guidance and navigation for weather, traffic, and other obstacles that may not be immediately detectable by the vehicle.

Vehicle to vehicle communication

Vehicle to vehicle communication will be a critical connectivity element for autonomous vehicles.

Standardization in communication protocols

Since vehicles from different manufacturers will all be sharing the road, it’s critical to have interoperability in the networks between cars, or updates from roads and infrastructure. Without standardized communications, information like road updates or standard signage may not reach cars of every make and model. You could end up with some cars proceeding into bad traffic or poor weather conditions, while others make it safely and quickly onto other routes.

To start developing standards for these protocols, organizations like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Transportation have created policies and frameworks to help developers integrate their automotive IoT products and share the IoT road. Currently, these are only guidelines. There are no federal laws (yet) about “highly automated vehicles” on the road, as long as they pass the existing safety standards. It’s likely that some proprietary networks will exist, giving certain consumers access to premium updates and information. However, general interoperability will require some overlap between vehicles to keep everyone safe and traffic running smoothly.

smart city wireless communication network

As vehicles become part of the internet of things, they’ll communicate with roads, signs, bridges, and more while driving.

Developing the next generation of vehicles requires integrating hundreds of sensors. These will also require enough processing power and connectivity to make use of all that data on the fly. Compilers, like TASKING, can help you write efficient software for processing sensory data for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS).  To learn more about integrating vehicles into the Internet of Things, contact an expert at TASKING.

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