Monday, August 13, 2007

Advanced vehicle systems for developing nations

Systems such as the $US395 Ford Sync car dashboard computer show that computer technology for cars is now affordable for more than just upmarket models. Recently I was asked for some ideas for research on vehicles and IT and so suggested using in car computers to provide facilities usually requiring expensive roadside infrastructure and be used to reduce traffic congestion and fuel use, particularly in developing nations.

Theme: Advanced vehicle systems for developing nations

This research will focus on the use of current or soon to be available mass produced computer and telecommunications hardware which can cost effectively applied to vehicles by use of advanced new computer applications. The technology will be developed for and tested in Australia's remote and harsh outback conditions and then sold to existing markets in the Middle East and new markets in developing nations, such as India and China. This will address the AutoCRC's mission to deliver smarter, safer and cleaner vehicle technology for Australia's benefit.


Technology which could be applied on a small scale by one manufacturer will be emphasized, rather than systems which require widespread industry adoption or government mandate. Instead of the "trickle down" approach, where technology developed for dense US and European roads has to be modified, the technology will be developed with these conditions in mind. Australian long distance driving, and for similar conditions in the middle east, demand different features from vehicle systems. Developing nations cannot afford large scale infrastructure to support advanced vehicle systems and so a more independent approach is needed.


* CAR COMMS: Many vehicle technology applications assume that a reliable wireless communications network is available, usually provided by the cellular telephone network. However, this network is not universally available outside Australian urban centers. Also such systems are not necessarily affordable for the envisaged applications, particularly in developing nations. Mesh networks offer a low cost alternative form of communications, but a number of research questions remain before they could be considered reliable, particularly when used from moving vehicles. This research would look at software designs for WiFi and WiMax mesh networks for cars. The systems would be designed for adhoc car to car communications , as well as integration with the newly announced Australian WiMax system. The communications system would be used for entertainment, person to person communications and car navigation tasks.

* DASHBOARD INTERFACE: Many cars will have a computer screen in the car dashboard which either came with the car or was added. These systems can be used for family social use and for mobile e-commerce applications, such as taxi trucks in developing nations. However, the cost of developing an application for these systems is currently prohibitively high. This research project would look at a toolkit of application components using Web 2.0 related technology to build social and commercial applications for vehicles.

OpenMoko provides a standard open source hardware platforms for developers of in-car computers. The Reva NGX show-car model showed the use of similar technology, with an Indian made Linux touch screen computer in the dashboard.

* VEHICLE INTERFACE: Modern cars have computer controlled systems which could be used for remote monitoring and automated control. This research would look at how to provide standardized interfaces to engine management, breaking, steering and other onboard systems.


* FAMILY TRIP PLANNER: The family would use the car communications network and dashboard screen to plan trips. The screen could automatically show where the family is, from the location of their smart phones and plot this against the car location and family schedule. The system could then automatically route the driver to family events:

"... the built in phone would refuse to take any calls while your car was in motion. The automated voice response system would say on your behalf "Yes dear, I am on his way to pick up the kids, ETA is 2 minutes. I have parking slot 3 reserved in the school queuing system. Press 1 if you want me to get some milk on the way home, press 2 for bread ...".

From: Re: RUF Dual Mode transport system, Tom Worthington, Link Mailing List, Jun 7 09:39:27 EST 2006
This is the scenario I suggested AIIA CEO, Sheryle Moon's
talk on "The ICT Industry In Australia".

* SMART ROAD TOLL: The current toll roads, such as the Sydney M7 are based on expensive RFID or optical number plate recognition infrastructure. Also the toll amount is fixed, resulting in under use of the road at off peak times. Cars equipped with communcations and location systems could provide a lower cost option for tolling. The vehicle could also advise the toll road of the drivers intended route and time, to set a suitable price.

* SMART ROAD: Vehicles could cooperatively communicate the road conditions to each other and to traffic authorities. Vehicles slow or stopped in a lane could be advised to oncoming drivers and to authorities. Existing systems for this rely on expensive networks of in road sensors or cameras.

* SAFETY OF LIFE ON ROAD: SOLOR would provide a system for automatic commercial vehicle tracking for safety purposes. It would be analogous to the Automatic Identification System (AIS) used by international shipping under the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). SOLOR would monitor all commercial vehicles for public safety and conformance with cargo safety, driver fatigue and other rules. An adaption of the system would be available for use in trouble spots to monitor all commercial vehicles for detection of possible truck bombs.

* TRAVELLING WIRELESS HOTSPOT: Public vehicles, such as busses, could be equipped with mobile wireless hotspots to connect both their own passengers and surrounding cars to the Internet. This would provide a lower cost and more robust system than fixed roadside antennas.

* PIMP MY RADIO: The Pimp My Radio demonstrator vehicle would be outfitted with an advanced audio and video digital entertainment system, in the style of the MTV show Pimp My Ride. In addition to a high quality surround sound system, the vehicle would have high resolution screens and multi player online game consoles. The vehicle systems would be interfaced to form part of the game, with the vehicle and its occupants being represented by avatars in My Space and similar systems.

* CAR SHARE SYSTEM: Systems such as Australia's GoGet car share offer access to cars for those who only need them occasionally or cannot afford to won one. GoGet's current web based booking system and RFID tags could be built into the car communications system, allowing better utilization at a lower cost.

* GUIDED HIGHWAY: Light rail provides an efficient method of public transport in urban areas. However, the startup costs are high and does not suit organic growth. There have been various proposals for road vehicles adapted to guided ways, the longest such route in the world being the The longest guided busway in the world being the Adelaide O-Bahn Busway. Such systems have depended on mechanical modification of specially procured vehicles. Proposals for advanced computer controlled guided systems have not been successful. This project will research the adaption of existing vehicles, particularly hybrid cars, and hybrid light trucks and mini-busses for automated guidance. The existing onboard computer controlled systems would be modified with a minimum of additional hardware and using a wireless network for tolling, navigation and safety. The and the existing in-dash computer would be used for the driver interface. The system would be designed so provide car owners, taxi truck and mini-buss operators could drive their own cars onto the guided road.


Many of the issues with the use of vehicle mounted communications in remote areas also apply to the military. Adhoc self forming networks could be applied to the Australian Defence Force's need for communications in remote areas at short notice. In vehicle screens could be applied to situational awareness for Australian Army ASLAV and Bushmaster vehicles. This could also be used for civilian contractor vehicles used in conflict areas, where a full military communications fit out was not feasible.

1 comment:

Tom Worthington said...

The US Vehicle Infrastructure Integration (VII) Initiative is looking to standardize a vehicle communication system for safety applications:

"Version 1.1 of the VII Architecture and Functional Requirements (dated July 20, 2005) is available and was outlined at a public meeting in late July 2005. This high level architecture, based upon DSRC as a communications medium, describes the functional requirements of the proposed system, which is further divided into 4 elements (the vehicle, roadside infrastructure, and a network for each of public and private uses). The development of the VII Architecture remains a dynamic process, which reflects the complex nature of the VII technical and institutional issues."