Canada opens new connected vehicle test facility on University of British Columbia campus


The University of British Columbia (UBC) has unveiled a national test bed for connected vehicle technology research as part of an initiative to promote safe, smart transportation in both the province of BC and Canada as a whole.

The new AURORA (AUtomotive testbed for Reconfigurable and Optimized Radio Access) facility has been funded in part by Transport Canada, the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and other partners and organizations.

The AURORA testbed includes a network operations center, a mobile base station, and five intersections equipped with roadside units (RSUs) on the southeastern portion of UBC’s Vancouver campus. It also includes traffic cameras, software-defined radios, a smart traffic signal controller, and two test drive vehicles, with all units connected to the campus network by wireless links.

The facility is fully equipped to trial vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) technologies, offering vehicle-to-everything (V2X) capabilities. AURORA researchers will test ‘driver assist’ alerts and add more connected intersections to the network. As well as highway and urban applications, the UBC team is also working with the Canadian Ministry of Forests and the forestry industry’s independent research organization, FPInnovations, to develop both road traffic models for heavy-duty vehicles and connected vehicle technology that will improve safety on BC’s natural resources off-highway roads.

AURORA researchers are also working with Cisco Systems and Eleven-X to develop methods for using emerging low-power wide-area wireless networking (LPWAN) technology to provide connectivity to smart road infrastructure on the province’s many highways that are not currently covered by mobile cellular networks or other wireless providers.

“This launch marks the first step in enhancing information sharing between vehicles, infrastructure and pedestrians, to improve safety and get people to their destination more efficiently,” said lead researcher David G Michelson, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at UBC’s Faculty of Applied Science.

“With AURORA now open for research ventures and partnerships, academics, industry and government can collaborate in connected-vehicle research and testing in an integrated world-class facility right here at UBC. The ‘smart intersections’ on campus are now capable of communicating with connected vehicles, and the network will grow rapidly in terms of both size and capability, with continued expansion planned over the next year.”

Michelson added, “When connected vehicles pass through these smart intersections, the new infrastructure will allow us to count vehicles, map vehicle trajectories, analyze driver behavior, and share traffic and traffic signal information, while stripping the data of personal information to protect users’ privacy.”

James Olson, dean of the Faculty of Applied Science, noted, “The AURORA connected-vehicle test bed is one of UBC’s important contributions to the development of smart cities. Transportation is one of the biggest challenges of smart cities, and AURORA is a first step in determining, through research, how smart roadside infrastructure can help both drivers and planners make better decisions. Thanks to recent infrastructure investments and the formation of key research teams, UBC is well-positioned to support these efforts, in collaboration with industry and government.”

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James joined the Traffic Technology International team in 2017. Previously he was Assistant Editor on an engineering title for several years and has worked for various other trade magazines before that. James is happily married and has a young daughter and son who keep him busy.