Current EU guidelines on cooperative, connected and automated mobility (C-ITS) draw heavily on a broad-ranging study on the topic; available from tinyurl.com/euc-its. The strategy proposes a number of day-one services under the broad headings of hazardous location notifications and signage applications. The former offer more timely and reliable warnings direct to the driver in the vehicle, while the latter could greatly reduce the amount of physical signage and considerably improve data, leading to network and intersection efficiency.
Virtually all these services exist in some form at the moment without digital communication between the network and the vehicle. Automated, autonomous vehicles are reported to be capable of many of these functions, based on existing arrangements. C-ITS offers a different way of achieving these services that may be more effective, although the evidence is not without ambiguity, and from an engineering perspective is much more logical as it reduces the reliance on onboard sensors and their maintenance.
Cooperative systems are complex to implement. They are not technically that complex in relative terms as most of the elements are quite mature. However, organizationally they are a major challenge, not least because of a big difference in objectives and maturity between vehicle suppliers and network operators. Unless all parties in the supply chain are capable of the minimum level of service, then the outcome can’t be assured. C-ITS can’t be achieved without a supply chain of data and communications. Operating safety-related services from multiple parties requires continual testing and auditing of technology and processes.
Unless cooperative services are delivered in such a way as to enhance the service over and above existing services, why would anyone pay for the additional complexity? Replicating existing services in the vehicle won’t be adequate but there is a temptation to do so on the grounds that it provides a baseline. In my view, to follow that course is a wasted opportunity. If we are to get traction with C-ITS there needs to be a customer-based service design that looks for simple enhancements to give the customer some added value. No one would be impressed by just getting a text message or graphic displayed on their dashboard, particularly in the early years when roadside and in-vehicle will have to coexist.
As I discussed in my article in the last issue, the difference between individual benefit and societal benefit is important.
At a time when the political movement is toward decentralization and deregulation, how much of the deployment is dependent on political will rather than commercial opportunity? The EU work is important because it ranges across all the deployment issues, both soft and hard, but there is a risk that it is seen as too centralist in approach. Within its own pages it admits that there are still areas of disagreement between vehicle manufacturers, network operators and information service providers, notably in the area of data management. Demonstration projects will offer some insights but, as with many existing ITS that are part of business as usual, the gap to deployment is much bigger than we envisaged and we need to consider these problems now.
Neil Hoose is an independent ITS consultant and owner/director of Bittern Consulting Limited firstname.lastname@example.org