Following the success of a June 2016 trial involving semi-autonomous trucks on I-69 in Michigan, the Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) and Michigan DOT (MDOT) are to run further trials this September involving a mixed convoy of civilian and military vehicles.
The focus of the US Army’s autonomous vehicle development program will remain on environments with less structure than the US highway system “cross-country mobility and dealing with dynamics that may prevent the use of a certain route,” as TARDEC director Paul Rogers puts it. But the importance of logistics means that the Army is ensuring it’s prepared for the challenge of connected highways, too. TARDEC is working with DSRC as it continues to be evaluated for use in roadside infrastructure and for V2X communications.
“In September we’ll operate commercial and military vehicles at the same time, communicating with the infrastructure, but also messaging with one another,” Rogers says. “Operating on our own in a theater of war, where we control the ground, is easier than intermingling on a US highway with a distribution of different vehicles that have to interoperate. Most of our Army is now based in the continental USA. We have to be able to safely interact and operate on the US highway system with our own population.”
Alex Kade, deputy associate director of Ground Vehicle Robotics at TARDEC, stresses that the Army has no position on whether wi-fi or cellular should ultimately be used to facilitate V2X communications: “We’re agnostic on the specific medium so long as it’s secure and it has the ability to provide the information we require.”
Alex Kade, deputy associate director of Ground Vehicle Robotics at TARDEC, stresses that the Army has no position on whether wi-fi or cellular should ultimately be used to facilitate V2X communications. “We’re agnostic on the specific medium so long as it’s secure and it has the ability to provide the information we require,” he says.
Last year’s trial established that there was no interference between commercial DSRC and military-specific radio systems. “It confirmed that DSRC’s a viable approach for us,” says Rogers. “We can take advantage of some of the economies of scale with pricing and sourcing that come from [its use in]the auto industry.”
But while the V2I part of the testing yielded successful communication with the RSUs, the runs did raise some issues around V2X communication that could have ramifications for civilian vehicle operators, too.
“We shuffled the order of the trucks and put various ISO containers on the back, to test the sensitivity of the radio transmissions between the trucks,” says Kade. “We noticed that certain things affected communications quite a bit, such as ISO containers blocking transmissions.
“We thought we would have good transmission capability across the four trucks but that’s going to be an issue,” says Kade. “Next time we’ll either have to relocate the antennas, look for different radio placements, or even add equipment to the trailers. We’re hoping not to have to put radios or antennas on the trailers but that may be a potential solution.”