Vehicle Communications and the Road to Driverless Automotive

Copper Horse’s Development Lead, Mark Neve discusses technology being deployed in the vehicle comms space.


The car of tomorrow is going to be communicating with many different things and not just for passenger entertainment. The field of Vehicle-to-“X” communications is growing considerably. The X can mean Vehicle-to-Vehicle (known as V2V) or Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) and even V2P – Vehicle to Pedestrian or V2B – Vehicle to Bike, with many different applications within. The opportunities to improve road safety are enormous but the security and safety implications of getting it wrong are equally as important. This is something that we’re looking at as a company and we’ve already trained vehicle OEMs on our IoT Foundations of Security training course which will be running again soon.



So how do vehicles communicate with their surrounding environment and how does new technology assists the driver in keeping control of the vehicle? This not only affects current human driven vehicles but also the drive towards fully autonomous vehicles with Alphabet company Waymo planning to have 20,000 self-driving vehicles on the road by 2020. The government statistics for casualties on UK roads for 2016 state that 448 pedestrians were killed and more than 23,000 were injured on our roads. If vehicles can assist the driver in avoiding obstacles, or reduce the collision speed, they can possibly lead to a reduction in deaths and injuries on our roads.


Let’s look at some of the technology emerging on cars which shows the evolving path towards full V2x communications:


Independent Autonomous Braking

Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) works in conjunction with vehicle mounted sensors and cameras which are used to detect obstacles and if needed, apply the brakes. According to Thatcham Research, 8 of the top 10 selling cars in the UK offer AEB, with 50% of vehicles fitting at standard.


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Drivers have experienced issues with this type of technology and an article in UK newspaper the  Plymouth Herald in October 2017 highlighted problems with a Volkswagen Tiguan where the “Front Assist” system may mistake high roadside hedges as an obstacle and brake sharply. This behaviour could lead to accidents if drivers in following vehicles do not see the same hazard and react more slowly in applying their brakes.


V2V for Emergency Vehicles

Emergency Vehicle Approaching warning systems are currently being trialled. Trying to locate the source of a siren can be difficult and can slow the progress of the emergency vehicle, costing precious time.  Warning systems being trialled allow the emergency vehicle to report its location and direction when it is approaching other vehicles on the road, allowing them extra time to create space for the emergency vehicle. This solution is further being developed so that emergency vehicles can be given priority at traffic lights, turning the lights green as they approach.


V2V Platooning

In the US, several companies such as Volvo, Daimler and Tesla are testing Platooning, the coordinated operation of two or more vehicles. The lead vehicle wirelessly communicates its speed, distance, brake status and information about any obstacle. Platoon vehicles use another V2V technology: cooperative adaptive cruise control (CACC) – a feature which monitors the speed of the vehicle ahead and adjusts its own speed to maintain a safe distance. Platooning could improve fuel economy by reducing drag as well as reducing accidents through safer following distances and instant notification of emergency braking.


V2I for Traffic Lights

Audi US and Traffic Technology Services (TTS)  have launched a vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) service which communicates with traffic lights and informs the driver how long before their lights turn green.

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The vehicle communicates with the lights using a built-in LTE connection, communicating through an Audi connect PRIME feature called Traffic Light Information (TLI). This system is currently on trial in Las Vegas and has been rolled out to other cities across the US including Dallas, Denver, Houston, Palo Alto and Washington DC supporting signals for more than 1,600 intersections.



Vehicle to pedestrian (V2P) technology is under development by vehicle manufacturers using DSRC (Dedicated Short Range Communication) technology built into both vehicles and the smartphones of pedestrians, notifying the vehicle of the speed and direction of pedestrians and alerting drivers to a hazard. There are several other V2P technologies currently under development, the US Department of Transportation keep a publicly available excel “database” of current V2P technologies here .



Vehicle to bike (V2B) technology is a more of a problem to implement as cyclists sometime behave like pedestrians and at times like cars making it much more difficult to track their movement. Proximity sensors can detect cyclists in certain areas around the vehicle but there are still many blind spots. One solution that is currently being suggested is bicycles with a beacon attached to communicate with other vehicles on the road although this idea has been met with scepticism by some of the biking community, with them suggesting that pedestrians and wild animals will also need a beacon.



Driverless Vehicles and Accidents

Vehicle technology continues to evolve very quickly with the move towards driverless cars. The Google self-driving project, Waymo has now clocked up over 5 million self-driven miles, although the vehicle is being constantly monitored by a driver, who should be ready to take control if the self-drive systems fail as they did in 2016.


There have been numerous stories in the news highlighting accidents involving autonomous vehicles. A study commissioned by Google and carried out by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute concluded that the US national crash rate is 4.2 accidents per million miles and 3.2 accidents per million for self-driving cars. There is a lack of data currently available due to the lack of self-driving vehicles, however many countries have plans to test self-driving cars on their roads over the next few years.


In March 2018 it was reported that an Uber car being tested in Tempe, Arizona struck Elaine Herzberg who was crossing a road while carrying a bike. She was transferred to hospital but later died of her injuries. At the time of this blog, Uber are yet to release their full report, so all the evidence isn’t currently available. There have been some articles highlighting how Uber scaled back their LIDAR sensors from seven sensors to one 360-degree sensor when they replaced the Ford Fusion vehicle with the Volvo XC90. The internal camera shows how the vehicle minder sitting in the driver’s seat was distracted for around 5 seconds prior to the crash; the former may have played a role in the inability to detect the pedestrian.


Where are we going?

It’s clear that there’s still much research and development to be done prior to fully-autonomous vehicles being allowed to share the highways with human driven vehicles. While not yet at the level required, systems which aid drivers could both help to reduce accidents and help test out safety technology critical to fully-autonomous vehicles. The more connected vehicles are to their surroundings correlates with the chance of avoiding obstacles. When we do see self-driving vehicles on our roads, it will be interesting to see the interaction with the human drivers and how human attackers may target these systems to exploit them for various purposes, but that’s a story for the future.