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Info-connected mobility

Fifth generation (5G) mobile technology could become the driving force behind Veichle-to-Everything (V2X) connectivity. As part of an event organized by 5GAA, some of the leading automotive and ITC companies have shown how, by joining forces, "intelligent" mobility solutions can be developed

Nicoletta Ferrini

Vehicles talking to each other. Vehicles that look at each other. And again, vehicles that communicate with the surrounding world and that, depending on the information collected, act, react and sometimes even anticipate events. This is the "miracle" of applying new technologies with captivating names to mobility - artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), augmented reality (AR), eye-tracking – made possible by a joint effort carried out by the automotive industry and telecommunications. C-V2X (acronym for Cellular Vehicle-to-everything) is one of the first fruits of this shared commitment. It is a wireless standard communication protocol that allows vehicles to communicate with just about everything around them: other vehicles (V2V, Vehicle-to-Vehicle), pedestrians or cyclists via smartphones (V2P, Vehicle-to-Pedestrian), road infrastructure (V2I, Vehicle-to-roadway Infrastructure), mobile networks (V2N, Vehicle-to-Network). The C-V2X unified platform includes direct short-range and long-range communications over the cellular network and capitalizes on the connectivity of the latest vehicles as well as the latest "mobile" communication technologies - 4G LTE (broadband), now commonly adopted at the global level, and 5G (high speed and low latency) - for the development of integrated solutions designed to increase the level of safety on the road, improve road conditions and optimize vehicle management.

"Connected mobility is now a market reality. The C-V2X protocol and its 5G V2X evolution will promote synergies between the automotive industry and other vertical sectors, which are fast moving to 5G," says Maxime Flament, chief technology officer of 5GAA (5G Automotive Association), a global cross-industry organization, which brings together more than 130 automotive and ICT players with the aim of developing "end-to-end" solutions for future mobility and transport services. During a recent event, "The 5G Path Of Vehicle-to-Everything Communication", organized in Turin by 5AGG, a number of companies in the consortium - including Audi, Continental, Ericsson, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), Harman Samsung, Marelli, Pirelli, Qualcomm, TIM and Vodafone – highlighted the current state of development of the C-V2X technology. "Live demos" in real city traffic as well as on the historic Lingotto rooftop track saw a combination of cutting-edge technology and ground-breaking products - including Pirelli's smart tires - "The technology displayed, has been designed making full use of important developments and the potential advantages offered by 5G technology," explains Flament.


Safety first

The "leitmotif" of all the tests – as well as the vast majority of possible C-V2X applications - is safety. And our thoughts go immediately to the weakest links in the mobility chain, i.e. pedestrians and cyclists. Favoured by 5G technology, real-time communication between people and moving vehicles reduces the risks for the most vulnerable road users, as demonstrated by the V2P demo made by TIM, Links Foundation and Luxoft and part of the Torino Smart Roads Initiative, sponsored by the City of Turin. In one case, the presence of a pedestrian at a road crossing point was detected by a camera, connected to the 5G network and installed near a pedestrian crossing, and communicated to all vehicles connected nearby. In a second case, a bicycle and a vehicle, both connected and moving towards each other, received an alert message, where a collision risk was identified.


Face to face with the surrounding world

How much time do we spend in city traffic every day? Often far too much and we are probably accustomed to considering it a waste. Up to now. The V2I demo proposed by TIM, FCA, Links Foundation, the City of Turin and the Polytechnic of Turin has in fact offered an alternative scenario. The test showed how, thanks to advanced on-board communication devices, 5G technology and TIM’s 5G Edge network, it is possible for the Municipality’s Transport and Road Service to inform drivers of potential situations of danger or changed road conditions. During the test, a standard geo-location alert, sent to an AMQP TIM broker and forwarded to the vehicles affected by the events, appeared on the HMI on board a Fiat 500X used for the test, along with a speed reduction signal.


V2V next generation

While V2P and V2I are new concepts, "vehicle-to-vehicle" communication is not exactly a novelty for the specialist. For over ten years now, in fact, V2V has been the talk of the town. However, thanks to the recent development in communication and connection technologies, V2V technology has made great strides. During the 5GAA event, Harman Samsung and FCA performed a demonstration test, integrating direct short-range communication via antenna. Through a direct radio link (network-less radio link), two vehicles - a Maserati Levante and a Quattroporte – were able to communicate, on an anonymous basis, some basic information (position, direction, etc.) with an average of ten messages per second. The Forward Collision Warning (FCW) detected the danger of a potential frontal collision and alerted the driver, while the Intersection Movement Assist (IMA) signalled a potential lateral collision with an incoming vehicle.

FCA, Continental, and Qualcomm, on the other hand, came up with a fast and reliable system of information exchange between vehicles in case of emergency. During the first part of the demo, based on C-V2X direct short-range technology, when the emergency lights were activated, the Stationary Vehicle Warning (SVW) function on board the Renegade Jeep used for the test sent a message to all approaching vehicles to inform them of a yet invisible danger. The second part of the test showed how, in the event of sudden braking, the Emergency Electronic Brake Light warning (EEBL) system is able to instantly communicate the potential risk to all other vehicles in the area.


An extension of the five senses

5G enhanced C-V2X technology, therefore, deserves the credit for extending the five senses of the drivers, allowing them to gain an "awareness" of the surrounding environment normally beyond their own sensory capabilities, being perhaps able to see beyond obstacles, as shown by a demonstration called "SeeThrough" carried out by Vodafone, FCA, Vodafone Automotive, Marelli and Altran. The "SeeThrough" function uses C-V2X communication over a long-range cellular network, allowing vehicles to exchange videos in streaming in real time. In the reconstruction, the visibility of the two Renegade Jeeps used in the test was at times obstructed by the presence on the road of a larger vehicle, thus making it risky to overtake. Both vehicles, however, were able to "see" through each other’s “eyes”, thus widening their field of vision. In what way? The two vehicles were equipped with a Marelli connectivity solution and Marelli Motorsport's high frame rate video cameras for lane detection. A real-time monitoring system and a vehicle space mapping algorithm, developed by Vodafone Automotive, allowed Vodafone's Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) paradigm to dynamically manage both vehicle detecting their respective positions, guaranteeing minimum end-to-end latency times for driver safety.


A truly integrated and connected ecosystem

The benefits increase almost proportionally when more hi-tech devices - wearable eye-detection devices, smart tires, in-vehicle augmented reality, smartphones and 5G network - work together, as demonstrated during another demo performer by Audi, Ericsson, Italdesign, KTH, Pirelli, Qualcomm, TIM and Tobii. During a reconstruction, Pirelli’s “Cyber Tires” detected the risk of aquaplaning and warned all other vehicles through the 5G network. Tobii's eye-tracking glasses were used as part of an “eye-to-content cloud” solution from the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), which detects the driver's level of awareness and what is happening around the vehicle in real time. Through an augmented reality system based on the KTH/Ericsson cloud, the information appeared directly on the vehicle's display. Integrated into the Audi infotaiment system by Italdesign, advanced driver assistance was enhanced by more information being provided and selected from Ericsson's centralized "cloud intelligence".


The future of mobility lies in C-V2X technology

C-V2X appears to be truly destined to turn the entire mobility eco system up-side-down. But how long do we have to wait for all these scenarios to become reality? Years, perhaps, but not that many. First, all vehicles need to be equipped with systems that allow connection. This depends on the pace at which current development takes place among manufacturers as well as the rate at which these new vehicles will replace those currently in circulation. The V2X protocol may also greatly benefit from the use of mobile networks, therefore infrastructure development is an additional matter to be considered. The first step, however, remains raising a widespread awareness of the potential and benefits of these developments. In this sense, if nothing else, "the die is cast".




BOX - About 5G Automotive Association (5GAA)

5G Automotive Association (5GAA) is a global, cross-sector organization that brings together companies from the automotive, technology and telecommunications (ICT) sectors, working together to define and develop the next generation of end-to-end solutions for vehicle automation and related mobility. The association, created in September 2016 by Audi AG, BMW Group, Daimler AG, Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Nokia and Qualcomm Incorporated, boasts now more than 130 members.



BOX - Pirelli: "smart" tires will play their part

In the rather complex ecosystem that will make up "smart" mobility in the near future, tires will certainly play a central role. "It is the only element of contact between vehicle and road," explains Corrado Rocca, head of R&D, Cyber Unit, Pirelli. A member of 5GAA for a few weeks now, the manufacturer has already been at the centre of several significant initiatives promoted by the association, including a joint demo presented at the event in Turin together with Audi, Ericsson, Italdesign, KTH, Qualcomm, TIM and Tobii. The Pirelli project for an “intelligent” tire comes from afar and is the result of research and development work begun about ten years ago. Equipped with a sensor developed by Pirelli, the Cyber Tire is able to communicate with the vehicle, with the driver and tomorrow, thanks to the huge potential of the 5G network, with everything around it. Moreover, not only data on the model, mileage and dynamic load is detected and released, but also real-time data on road conditions that could compromise grip, as well as potentially hazardous situations such as possible aquaplaning. "In this specific case, Cyber Tire does not just reports the event once it has taken place, but captures it when it is about to begin, i.e. when it is still possible for the driver and those around him to react effectively - describes Rocca - For now it is only a matter of receiving alerts, but in the future, thanks to advanced control systems, also the level of automated intervention will be pre-determined”.

Central to the Pirelli Cyber Tire project is safety, but performance is also important. "Such a tire can provide useful information to improve overall driving, increase performance and optimize fuel consumption and emissions". This is the direction taken by the "Track Adrenaline" project, presented earlier this year, and which, for the first time, brings a Pirelli Cyber application onto a track. Track Adreanline is a product designed for “track day events” enthusiasts which includes Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires equipped with sensors able to communicate with a control unit located in the vehicle, which, in turn “talks” with an App on a smartphone. Like a real "virtual track engineer", the tire constantly monitors the pressure, temperature and the driving lines of the car on the track, giving the driver useful information aimed at improving his performance. In addition, Pirelli's "Cyber" technology is already available for fleets (Cyber Fleet solution), which optimises management costs, increases transport safety and efficiency, reduces vehicle downtime and carbon dioxide emissions. In short, the technology is there and "the 5G network offers the opportunity to improve data management turning it into useful information - concludes Corrado Rocca - The diffusion of such technology, however, depends on the development of the infrastructure. There is no doubt that this is the future. Within a few years more than 90% of all vehicles will be connected”.

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