A safer road is one that talks. Vehicles that communicate with each other, as well as with the road infrastructure, transport agencies and others, can warn drivers of upcoming hazards and ultimately prevent accidents and keep traffic flowing more smoothly.
Finland saw the potential and, following the European Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) directive, is the first to implement a pilot scheme that seeks to enable vehicles to communicate safety hazards such as black ice or animals on the road.
The pilot will involve volunteers sharing information from their vehicles to others via a smartphone. However, the end goal is to lay the foundation for automated cloud communication on mobile networks with data generated by vehicles’ on-board sensors and the surrounding road infrastructure to other vehicles and smart devices on the road.
In that scenario HERE plays the role of conductor orchestrating and analysing the volume of sensor data in its location cloud and sending messages to the right place within seconds or eventually even milliseconds.
It’s an ambitious goal. Many of the services trying to solve this problem today are limited to back and forth messages – maybe one car to an app or a local agency. But with its ability to make sense of historical and real-time location information, HERE can bring together different parties like local transport agencies, cars, insurance companies and road infrastructure across geographies.
We spoke to George Filley and Mika Rytkönen, who are leading this pilot at HERE, to find out how it will work.
According to Mika, the area chosen for the pilot, which stretches westwards from Helsinki, makes the perfect testing ground.
“We are able to test these messages, one could say, in one of the most difficult weather environments in Europe. Making sense of these messages and developing analytics require deep expertise on traffic management. We are delighted that we can develop this pilot together with FTA experts.”
Mika continues, “Traffic safety messages contribute to the road safety. Drivers will have a better understanding of what is going on around them. In addition, drivers can also report if they see something strange while driving. And the best part is that we can provide this pilot by leveraging existing technologies and provide a solution to drivers relatively fast”.
The pilot, planned to kick off in the first half of 2016, will take place on the E18 highway, which is the main road between Helsinki and Turku, as well as the Ring I and Ring III highways in the Greater Helsinki area, with initially up to 1,000 drivers expected to take part.
The basic premise is fairly simple: allowing cars to communicate with each other about road hazards to prepare other drivers in that area. However, it is the technical practicalities to make this work that make it tricky, especially due to the need for a common architecture that can work between different parties and across countries.
George says, “Digital Transportation Infrastructure allows ingestion, smart analytics and targeted distribution of safety critical information to the right people at the right time.”
HERE will collect this information in an industry standard messaging format, which is sent from the vehicle or smart device about a particular problem, such as black ice.
George says, “Once we receive that information we know not only the type of problem it is, we know where that problem is. Using the analytics of our location cloud we can determine the impact area of that incident and create a geographic boundary, or polygon, which can then be used by drivers and navigation solutions to make logical changes to routes, avoiding the identified problem.
He continues, “We can send that information to a relevant party such as the local transportation management center, they can take that information and act on it, whether to address the problem or provide targeted information about an incident for vehicles to avoid.”
HERE is also working with standards bodies so the architecture can be used across wireless infrastructures as well as allow for interoperability across countries. So for instance, just like the universal nature of stop signs, the message symbols that pop up on the vehicle, regardless of manufacturer and in whatever country, need to be standardized for this system to work effectively.
It gives us an opportunity to create a common architecture for the Nordic countries
George says, “Our approach is infrastructure agnostic and allows for the simultaneous sending of information, about an impact area, to multiple carriers who can then resend directed message, with fast delivery, based on a representation of the impact area against the map.”
While Finland is just a start, the pilot can act as a springboard for a system that could work across the Nordic countries.
Mika says, “One reason we are so delighted FTA selected us to deliver this pilot is because now we can start turning to the Nordic collaboration. It gives us an opportunity to create a common architecture for the Nordic countries - Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland – so that if you are crossing the border you can receive the same service regardless of where you are.”
It’s an exciting beginning to what could be a whole new way of avoiding hazards on the roads of the near future. We will keep you updated as to the progress of the pilot, which begins next year.
Image credits: FinlandPilot-2 by from Shutterstock; other images by HERE.