A £1.7m (US$2.2m) project, funded by Innovate UK, has developed a cloud-based data platform that will help autonomous and human-driven vehicles connect and communicate with each other and their surroundings to reduce collisions and traffic congestion.
Led by the University of Nottingham and innovative digital technology company, Control F1 (now part of the Intercept IP Group), the two-year i-Motors project has produced a mobile platform for data transfer and storage by vehicles from different manufacturers. The Vehicle Cloud Computing (VCC) system can securely handle ‘big data’ with near real-time results, which will be essential if lots of vehicles are ‘talking’ to each other and sharing information with traffic control centers and smart city infrastructure. The VCC can accept data from a variety of external sources and capture information from multiple vehicles to provide driver and car with timely and accurate updates on road works, congestion, weather conditions and other issues that might affect travel. The platform also allows vehicles to automatically report and self-diagnose problems to reduce the chance of a road-side breakdown or detect hazardous conditions and warn other nearby vehicles.
The i-Motors project team has also developed a cost-effective location sensor suite and communication devices capable of transmitting essential data to the cloud in real-time. Their aim is to address the issues of intermittent connectivity and high costs of current location receivers on the market. GNSS satellite signals are vulnerable to interference from tall trees and buildings and lack of resilience. Under the i-Motors multi-sensor approach, GNSS positioning and navigation is augmented by other sensing devices including accelerometers, barometers, magnetometers, odometers and digital compasses, together with 3D contextual maps and computer vision techniques. Combined these technologies enables intelligence-led, decision-making that counteracts ‘urban canyon’ GPS signal gaps. While i-Motors has yielded the first-generation prototype sensor that is now being commercialized by Control F1, the research is sequential and ongoing for the research team at Nottingham, which is now sponsored by the Innovate UK RECAPD (Requirement Evaluation of CAV Location Performance and Platform Development) project to further advance the sensor technology.
“While it is predicted the UK will see huge growth in autonomous and connected vehicle production in the next decade, less consideration has been given to how a cooperative intelligent traffic system could aid traffic management to make road use safer and more productive. This is where i-Motors research is bridging the gap,” explained project lead, Dr Xiaolin Meng, from the University of Nottingham’s Geospatial Institute. “A totally driverless world requires disruptive, affordable technology to help vehicles interact with traffic control centers, their connected surroundings, and other vehicles. Real-time, high-precision positioning and navigation with uninterrupted connectivity is vital to maintain vehicle performance.”
Meng added, “With a combination of different sensors and GPS location tracking, the unit we have developed can achieve sub-meter accuracy, even when out of internet and GPS range, and uses low-cost equipment. Our GNSS position system can receive corrections from the national digital infrastructure and make positioning much better.”