Connected, Autonomous Vehicles Are Within Sight

The auto industry is entering a period of transformation unrivaled by any other since its inception over one hundred years ago. Driven by both consumer demand and governmental regulatory policy, we are witnessing not only an unprecedented convergence of emerging materials and electronic technologies, but also a shift toward vehicular autonomy; together these advances will ultimately result in automobiles that do not require the active participation of drivers to reach their destinations safely.

In the near future, cars simply become a service, propelled by disruptors such as Uber. Will continually available autonomous vehicle services become so mainstream, so ubiquitous, that few people need to own a car when they can more economically subscribe to a service and summon a vehicle only when necessary? It is possible that owning a car will once again become a luxury, much as it was 100 years ago. What does this mean for the lower end segments – do they all but disappear in most urban and suburban areas as a segment of consumer ownership, and the products become fleet vehicles, while the higher-end luxury OEMs remain consumer-oriented and form a niche for private car ownership? We believe this is a real possibility.

What will drive the change? The economic efficiencies and safety improvements realized through connected vehicle technology and automation will be significant. Connected and autonomous vehicle technology, such as Dedicated Short Range Communications radios (DSRC) will provide wide-ranging benefits to both users and the economy in general, as both safety and traffic flow & management are improved, lowering costs, decreasing lost commuting time and the risk of accidents, and thus increasing productivity. It is difficult not to acknowledge the prevalence of drivers on the roads today who are already not operating their vehicles; rather they are texting, reading, or taking photos with mobile devices, all of which lead to delayed reaction times, swerving in and out of lanes, and erratic speed, to name a few. Once these drivers are freed of the responsibility of piloting their vehicles, fewer accidents will occur and lower costs will be realized for transportation agencies and insurers – which can ultimately be passed along to businesses, governments, and consumers.

The confluence of the automotive and wireless telecommunications industry is here, as cars are increasingly rolling wireless devices, a part of the IoT.  Vehicle and infrastructure automation is already happening as manufacturers, service providers, and municipalities add in-vehicle and roadside technology to measure, regulate, and protect the safety of traffic flow; commercial applications will lead the way, and pilot programs are already getting underway in cities such as Pittsburg, PA with projects involving Uber, Ford, and Volvo. The driving experience for light and heavy-duty vehicles will require increasingly less human intervention and become more efficient as these technologies are widely deployed over time, and firms participating in the early stages of pilot programs have an opportunity to carve a long-term niche in this rapidly developing industry segment.

While the first vehicles to appear must be autonomous without any reliance on established roadside infrastructure technology (V2I or Vehicle-to-Infrastructure), ultimate autonomous technology success and adoption will require integrated and reliable communications networks. Future operators will face challenges in DSRC network deployment and integration of infrastructure in existing environments not designed with vehicle automation in mind, and accurate and thorough coverage assessment will be required. Skilled network design and RF engineering teams can ensure maximum performance, efficiency, and uptime for a superior user experience, and successful firms will offer a full range of turnkey services to simplify the network planning, sourcing, and deployment process, accelerate implementation, improve quality, minimize service interruptions, and reduce overall deployment costs.

Widelity can provide the V2I design, installation, and management services that will soon be demanded nationwide. Our experience designing distributed antenna systems (DAS), radio access networks (RAN), small cell, towers, antennas, and power equipment makes us the ideal partner in setting up the similar integrated automotive communications networks that will enable vehicular autonomy. Our staff has the engineering, logistics, design, and planning expertise to support both the field services teams and our clients with the preparation and support necessary for a successful deployment. Further, we provide the procedures, processes, and documentation for a well-designed network that will meet or exceed the assuredly demanding quality, reliability, and redundancy standards of V2I networks to come. Services directly applicable to this rapidly approaching technology deployment include: turnkey systems integration, license preservation, site surveys & line-of-site, path design and analysis, site acquisition, equipment procurement, high-speed data backhaul, permitting and zoning, RF engineering, construction management, drive testing, and integrated project/program management. Widelity’s capacity to design and deploy these networks can be instrumental in connecting the V2I gear required to enable the safe, efficient, and autonomous vehicular traffic of the near future.