Articles

Networking vehicles

For more than 15 years now, Bertrand Ducourthial from the UTC-Heudiasyc Lab has been applying his dynamic network research to connected vehicles; inter vehicle communication, analysis and use made of data from the onboard sensors are at the heart of his research programme to improve road safety and driver comfort.

Networking vehicles

Collaborative applications already enable drivers to signal observed traffic problems to other road users.

The “connected vehicle” made in UTC, goes further and delegates to its vehicles the possibility to communicate with each other and, under certain circumstances, to act accordingly, independently of the driver. Innovations here are aimed notably at keeping the driver informed about road conditions ahead (traffic jams, adverse weather, back ice on roads …) and data about these conditions are collected on the Internet via road-side antennae and are redirected to the vehicles in the relevant sectors via other antennae.

The expression ‘connected’ is often used to designate vehicles that have a current Internet connection”, details our lecturer, specialist in computer sciences and their applications. Sharing the information provided by the increasing number of sensors we find today in the test cars (outside temperature, rain …) but also using roadside WIFI antennae, the network will generate a real-time road condition “map” without need to question other road users. The objective here is to combine data from the various sources to make the overall situation picture more reliable without intruding into our private spheres.

“If one driver switches on his windscreen wipers, or if an on-board sensor picks up an abnormal temperature, this information may be “false” or spurious but when several such signals concord, a rain or black-ice alert can be broadcast to all road users in the area”, explains the professor.

 Smart and reliable solutions

 Beyond the simple inter-vehicle exchange of information, the other aim is to make the network “smart”, using distributed algorithms to collect, broadcast, combine and transmit … the information in a reliable, robust, manner. Ongoing research work enables modelling of dynamic networks and allows scientists to demonstrate the efficiency of their algorithms. Various robust design techniques enable efficient connection/disconnection protocols for the test vehicles. These algorithms also include the possibility to envisage automatic execution of tasks as a function of incoming data. When rain is signalled, the windscreen wipers and the headlights can be switched on automatically. This technology can be implemented via a simple on-board computer that connects in to the CAN (controller area network) bus of the vehicle.

Bertrand Ducourthial and his research colleagues have developed an on-board ‘comm’ system which has been proven satisfactory. Several on-road experiments have been conducted to supplement the laboratory studies. Last December, a fleet of 10 vehicles were used in a demonstration, all fitted with WIFI antennae and GPS receivers on the roofs and with two ‘road-side’ antennae on a test track installed on UTC premises.

Our UTC-Heudiasyc scientist is carrying out studies to improve efficiency and safety of vehicle networks. The quest to define and implement rapid, reliable solutions for constantly moving users represents a major scientific challenge. “What we did was to develop an ad hoc address-free network in which the vehicles on the road cooperate to find and connect to relevant Internet links via the road-side antennae”. The risk of fraud activities – e.g., creation of virtual traffic jams to secure road monopoly situations – and remote hacking are all part of the improvements that the team are studying carefully. The scientific lead that UTC has acquired in the field of connected vehicles is an advantage and the Heudiasyc team is a recognized pioneer in driverless, smart vehicles.