Connectivity coverage mapping for vehicle communications

Ford and a Russian university research team have developed connectivity coverage mapping to enable vehicles to select channels as appropriate for communications.

Ford and the St Petersburg State Polytechnic University in Russia have reached the final phase of a research project aimed at enhancing vehicle communication technology. As a result of the work that uses university telematics expertise in space robot communications, Ford has filed several patents on technologies that can serve to advance connected cars of the future.

“The challenge of creating a robust wireless communications network is shared between the space and automotive industries,” said Oleg Gusikhin, technical leader, Advanced Connected Services, Ford Research & Advanced Engineering. “These first results are very promising in terms of offering more reliable communications technology for the future of connected vehicles.”

The primary goal of the three-year joint project was the development of robust communication technology to connect drivers and service providers with information and services in the cloud. The key problem Ford set out to address was maintaining reliable communications between vehicles and the cloud in conditions where there was wireless network overload or poor connectivity.

How the prototype works

Data was collected and transmitted from moving vehicles, which featured a variety of capabilities for a connection to the cloud – cellular, Wi-Fi, and communication with other vehicles and the infrastructure (V2x). The team created an intelligent connectivity manager that uses software and algorithms to select the option best suited to transmit data to the cloud from the available connections, with each vehicle given the opportunity to assess the quality of communication channels and to transmit data.

The researchers developed a small-scale connectivity coverage map that keeps the features of the landscape, while incorporating data on fixed and mobile wireless access points, the quality of service of the available communication channels as well as traffic conditions.

Specifically, the team looked at sharing critical information regarding a road emergency with drivers in an area that has poor connectivity. In this scenario, a car entering a tunnel encounters black ice and needs to send a signal noting the slippery conditions for other vehicles. There’s no cellular reception and Wi-Fi is not an option because there’s no hot spot, but another car leaving the tunnel in the opposite direction has both vehicle-to-vehicle and a cellular connection.

The intelligent connectivity manager selects the second car’s vehicle-to-vehicle channel to deliver information gathered from the first car to the cloud so that it can then transmit a warning to other drivers of the dangerous conditions at the tunnel entrance. If no other cars are around, the connectivity manager would postpone sending the message until the first car leaves the tunnel and a cellular network becomes available.

In non-emergency situations, the connectivity manager can check the coverage map to determine the best point for service delivery. So if a vehicle is traveling in a remote area and a software update is sent out, the update would be delivered over the air when the connection is stronger.

What’s next

In the future, as information will be collected at the same time from hundreds of vehicles, a universal connectivity map will reflect the current data at all times – acting as a database for implementing smart roads and smart city projects. This means that in any given situation, whether moving or parked, the vehicle with the most stable connection – cellular, embedded modem, Wi-Fi, vehicle-to-everything – can be a resource to facilitate a reliable connection to information services, enhancing the connected experience for the entire motoring community.

Vladimir Zaborovsky, who heads up telematics for St Petersburg State Polytechnic University, is pleased with the findings of the project. “The systems we’ve developed are of high reliability, scaleability and adaptability and they open broad prospects for applications – both in transport logistics and in space robotics,” he said. “We’re looking forward to further collaborating with our colleagues from Ford.”

The project will be finalised by year-end and the results could be integrated into Ford’s production programmes including vehicle-to-vehicle communications, the delivery of emergency messages and over-the-air software updates.

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Intelligent Mobility

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