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How to meet the risks and challenges of connected and automated vehicles

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Connected and automated vehicles (CAVs) are on the way, the future of mobility and transport will inevitably affect the project profession. The UK government has set up the Centre for Connected and Automated Vehicles (CCAV) to look into the regulations and infrastructure needed to allow the roll-out of CAVs, providing funding to projects that further the CAV agenda.

One such project is FLOURISH, a Bristol-based research project that involved a consortium of private sector companies, universities and local authorities. Led by project management consultancy Atkins, it highlighted some of the major challenges around introducing CAVs and CAV networks, and how to potentially overcome them – all of which translate into future infrastructure projects across the country. 

1. Consistent, reliable data

It’s vital that the data that you’re sending is safety-critical, says Tracey Poole, project lead. “It’s got to be low latency, with a high probability of it being received.”

The project looked at the delivery of connected services to vehicles, such as ‘slow vehicle ahead’ warnings. The reliability of transmissions through standard networks dropped off after 120 metres, so the team tested an ITS-G5 system on 2.4GHz WiFi frequency which improved reliability.

Fog-based computing was also trialled to reduce latency. “Our central point of contact [for the network] might be in the cloud, and the cloud could be a long way away – it’s in a data store in Iceland, for example. And the risk is the latency, it’s the time it takes for the messages to go back and forth. The way you can reduce that is to bring the computational power closer. 

2. Keeping the network secure

Without adequate security, the CAV network will be vulnerable to hacking attacks, which could spread misinformation, take control of vehicles and put lives in danger. The digital infrastructure for CAVs must be as close to impenetrable as possible if CAVs are to be more widely adopted.

It also requires some kind of incident response framework in case something goes wrong, so that any errors or attacks can be dealt with swiftly, with minimum danger and disruption.

FLOURISH identified Pseudonym Public Key Infrastructure (PPKI) which distributes many digital certificates across the network of CAVs, and updates in real time, as a solution for more secure networks. It also developed an AI anomaly detection system to flush out any intrusions into the network.

3. How people will use and interact with CAVs

The biggest unknown when it comes to the adoption of connected and automated vehicles is how people will interact with them. The human factor is the most unpredictable and must be taken into account when implementing CAV infrastructure projects.

“So you get into your CAV, how do you tell it where you want to go?” says Poole. “How do you tell it that you’ve changed your mind and you want to go and visit a friend or get some milk? It needs to be really adaptive and accessible to suit an individual’s specific needs.”

CAVs, for example, could be hugely beneficial for older or less mobile people, who may not be able to drive. As part of FLOURISH, real world trials of CAV pods were conducted with residents of a retirement village in Bristol. They found that people were receptive to using CAVs, but also wanted a degree of control. Voice control also increased trust with the system, versus typing in a destination.

All of these factors must be considered and addressed in future projects as we move towards the use of connected and automated vehicles. Research projects such as FLOURISH are paving the way for the mega-projects to come. Join and contribute to our ‘big conversation’ about how the project profession can best shape the future and how the future may affect the project profession.

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Brought to you by Project journal.

Image: courtesy of FLOURISH

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