How networked mobility pulls chaos out of traffic
Most new cars bought today are already networked. The really exciting functions such as autonomous driving are only possible in conjunction with powerful communication networks. Then individual mobility can be better controlled and that generates many advantages. Which technology is to serve as the infrastructure is still controversial at present.
"Today, computers, smartphones and the Internet are part of everyday life in our society. It will be the same in 2025 with networked cars," predicts Dirk Hoheisel, member of the Board of Management of Robert Bosch GmbH. According to a study by PwC, around 85 percent of new cars purchased in Europe, the U.S., or China are already considered networked. So the "Connected Car" has been with us for some time now - but what exactly does that mean?
The term networked car is used when the vehicle comes into contact with its surroundings. A SIM card is not absolutely necessary. Autonomous driving functions without any network connection thanks to sophisticated sensor technology. In the USA, autonomous vehicles often complete their test kilometers in areas without mobile phone coverage. The cars are dependent on their own computing power and data supplied by their own cameras, lidar scanners or radar sensors. That's a good thing: After all, even in the future a car driver cannot rely on the fact that he has a connection to a communication network everywhere.
Without a network connection, autonomous driving progresses only slowly
Vehicles that are only connected to the environment via their sensors have a decisive disadvantage: to be on the safe side, such vehicles are usually driven at very low speed: Google Cars were often stopped by the police because they were driving too slowly.
Industry and politics argue over infrastructure
A connection to the traffic infrastructure such as traffic lights, signs or parking lots as well as to other vehicles greatly expands the possibilities of the networked car. At least if the performance of the network is sufficient. This could not be achieved with the UTMS mobile communications standard, for example. For this reason, the interest of car manufacturers in the topic of "Connected Car", which had been awakened during the first Internet boom, was lost again. The new 5G generation of mobile phones is intended to offer exactly those features that are necessary for networking automobiles. But this is also possible without mobile radio. With the help of proven WLAN technology, road users can also network with each other and with the traffic infrastructure.
Both the automotive and IT industries disagree as to which of the two alternatives is the better one: Volkswagen, Renault, Toyota or Kapsch TrafficCom favor the established and proven WLAN standard. Daimler, BMW, Ford, the PSA Group and many IT companies such as Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Huawei, Intel and Samsung, on the other hand, prefer the new 5G mobile phone generation, which is currently still not widely used. The EU Commission and the EU Parliament, on the other hand, are setting the course for WLAN. Only recently, however, 21 EU states vetoed the move. This is delaying the networking of road traffic.
In just a few years, the "Connected Car" is expected to generate many advantages
Despite this delay, the Connected Car offers many new possibilities. Networking can bring a little more order into the chaos of individual traffic. This brings many advantages and some of them can already be estimated today. In the joint study "Connected Car Effect 2025", Bosch and Prognos list several effects that are expected to be felt in the regions studied (Germany, the U.S., and some major Chinese cities) as early as 2025. In addition to networking, the prerequisites for this are comfort and assistance systems that are already familiar today, such as ESP skid protection. They will become a source of data and should benefit all road users through networking. In concrete terms, Bosch and Prognos expect the following effects from the further spread of networked safety systems and cloud-based functions:
- Prevention of 260,000 accidents and 350,000 injured and 11,000 road fatalities annually. Over 4.4 billion euros less accident damage.
- Functions such as community-based parking and active parking management save around 480,000 million kilometers because they shorten the search for parking spaces. Highly automated driving also saves fuel. This results in a total saving of 400,000 tons of CO.
- According to the study, networked parking functions will make about 70 million driving hours superfluous.
- Highly automated driving and the connection to the Internet also make the automobile a place where drivers can work or relax. It should soon be possible to process e-mails, hold video conferences or enjoy films behind the wheel without endangering oneself or other road users. The authors of the study expect time savings of about 31 hours per year.
The technology is still in its infancy and is developing rapidly.
However, the "Connected Car Effect 2025" study only deals with a small part of the possible advantages. Networked mobility opens up many fields of application. They are difficult to estimate at the present time because the technology is still in its infancy and is developing rapidly. The following two examples illustrate this:
- Without networking the vehicles, shared mobility is a somewhat tedious affair. The connection to the Internet has made car sharing and co. enormously simple and thus more popular. New technologies such as autonomous driving, which can be made possible by networking, can make shared mobility even more attractive: This allows cars to move autonomously to the place where the user needs them. According to a study, German citizens are already very open to car sharing today: More than a quarter can imagine doing without their own car. Another study commissioned by the German digital association Bitkom even assumes that by 2025 the majority of motorists in conurbations will no longer own their own vehicle. Car sharing would thus replace every second car.
- If a certain number of vehicles are also networked and can "talk" to each other, a swarm intelligence develops that could be used to optimize traffic flows, for example. Approximately one fifth of the traffic obstructions caused by road congestion could be prevented.
- The tire manufacturer Bridgestone is working on networking the tire: A small chip integrated into the tires constantly transmits data. This makes it possible, for example, to determine whether there is a risk of air loss. For example, the sensor informs the driver about wear on the treads or damage to the flanks. However, the data also provides information about the driving behavior of the handlebars and could serve as a basis for pay-as-you-drive insurance. If, on the other hand, the chips in the tires are connected to the vehicle's on-board electronics, many additional applications are opened up: One of these is predictive maintenance: service and maintenance can be carried out on the basis of data and analysis programs before a vehicle becomes unroadworthy.
Conclusion: How networked mobility pulls chaos out of traffic
Individual transport has the advantage that the user can tailor it very strongly to his own needs: They do not have to stick to departure times and train locations. The increasing flood of traffic is increasingly restricting this freedom. The "Connected Car" makes it possible to better control individual traffic by allowing vehicles and the entire infrastructure to communicate with each other. This makes the entire system more efficient. Ultimately, this means increased safety, lower costs, lower environmental impact and more time available to the driver. The many possibilities offered by networking mobility are hardly foreseeable today. Even though many vehicles are already connected to the Internet, the technology is only just beginning.
Image source Cover picture: https://www.pexels.com/photo/time-lapse-photography-of-city-road-at-nighttime-1168940/
Born in Vienna. Since 2018 "Certified Service Design Thinker" he has been pursuing his passion as Innovation Manager at LEAD Innovation.