The vehicles will not only be quieter and less polluting, with the advent of electric mobility, but they will also be increasingly connected and, in perspective, equipped with autonomous driving systems. The recent agreement between FCA and Foxconn goes in this direction
Cav, connected and automated vehicles: in the near future cars will not only be electric and therefore quieter and less polluting, but they will also be increasingly connected and, in the future, equipped with autonomous driving systems. It is in this perspective that the announcement by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which said it has ongoing discussions with Hon Hai Precision Ind. Co. (Foxconn) for the possible establishment of a 50-50 joint venture for the development and production in China of new generation electric vehicles and entry into the IoV (Internet of Vehicles) business.
The proposed collaboration initially focused on the Chinese market, which would allow the parties to combine the capabilities of two established world leaders in automotive design, engineering, manufacturing and mobile software technology to focus on the growing market for battery electric vehicles. Although the two giants are still a long way from signing a final agreement, it is interesting to note that in recent months Foxconn’s president, Young Liu, stated that the company would focus on three key areas as future growth drivers: electric cars, digital medicine, and advanced robotics.
If the agreement with Fca were to go through, it would, therefore, be a further step towards the creation of automotive platforms that are increasingly moving in the Cav direction, rather than simply developing electric vehicles. Foxconn is, in fact, the world’s most important manufacturer of smartphones and other electronic devices and has the industrial and technological know-how to transform cars, as we know them today, into real Cavs. The cars of the future will, in fact, be a sort of smartphone with wheels, but powered by electric motors. The new vehicles will, in fact, be able to process and manage a series of data and remain connected to the new 5G networks through which they will receive the information to reach their destination and carry out all the activities connected to the service.
Innovation on show at CES
The ongoing experiments and agreements for the development of Cav platforms, i.e. including not only the vehicle (hardware) but also the software (artificial intelligence systems, big data) and the connection and data acquisition networks (5G), are different and the latest edition of CES, the electronics exhibition that has just ended in Las Vegas, has provided several examples that show how this particular development is a challenge that goes beyond the automotive industry and also involves those of telecommunications and electronics, in a process of total technological integration.
It is no coincidence that among the prototypes that were presented at the CES there is the one made by Sony, the Japanese electronics giant that has proposed, alongside the others, its model of an autonomous vehicle. Sony is not the only one: next to her, competing in the development of new models of autonomous vehicles are giants such as Google, Huawei Technologies and Apple. IBM also took the field with Seat for the development of integrated driver assistance systems equipped with artificial intelligence.
The real challenge is safety
As was also highlighted by research published in the Journal of Traffic and Transportation Engineering in April last year, the main obstacle holding back the development of the Cavs is the one related to safety. The Cav technology is, in fact, an extremely complex system that, in addition to managing the vehicle and the driver, must necessarily also dialogue with the surrounding environment: roads, crossings, pedestrians, other vehicles, everything must be somehow transformed into a signal that must be collected and processed in real-time by the on-board computer. This requires a platform equipped with different technologies (optical sensors, radar, radio signals) that must speak to each other.
In addition, artificial intelligence systems need huge amounts of data that they can analyze in order to learn and model their processes. For this reason, from several parts (Europe, United States, and Japan), automotive industries, telephone network operators, research bodies and motorway network operators are working together to create real living labs where all these technologies can be tested. These are really smart cities like the one that will build Toyota at the foot of Mount Fuji in Japan. Woven city, this is the name of the city, will occupy the area previously occupied by a disused factory and will be inhabited by 200 researchers, engineers, and developers who will dedicate themselves to the study of solutions to support the Cav.
In the United States, just a few miles from the automotive district of Atlanta, Georgia, the Automotive Infrastructure Technology Laboratory (IATL) was announced earlier this week. The Laboratory aims to bring together automotive manufacturers, cellular network operators, traffic control device companies and semiconductor manufacturers into a single technology hub to create, develop and test vehicle safety-related applications. A true live laboratory of innovative mobility. “The ability of vehicles to communicate with traffic control infrastructure is critical to improve road safety and the rapid adoption of connected vehicle technology throughout the fleet,” said Jovan Zagajac, Head of Connected Vehicle Technology for Ford Motor Company, one of the project partners.
The Experiments in Germany
In Europe, on the other hand, the Germans are very active, and in Lower Saxony, they have launched the project “Lower Saxony test camp for automated and networked mobility”. On Wednesday, the Dlr Institute of Transportation systems opened the test route on the A39 motorway near Braunschweig, a section of the entire route as part of the “Westfield Niedersachsen” project launched together with the Lower Saxony Lander.
In the last three years, along this stretch of motorway, Dlr has installed around seventy poles equipped with sensors capable of detecting the movement of vehicles and collecting data that can be reused to facilitate the development of technologies designed to support the circulation of unmanned vehicles. The sensors can communicate with each other and with the vehicles if properly equipped. In addition to permanently installed sensors, there are mobile versions. The data collected then form a map that collects all the project databases. An open research and development platform will be created, a unique and comprehensive combination of different testing and test options will be offered – from simulation to routes in public spaces.
The construction of the infrastructure for the “Testfeld Niedersachsen” project and the digitization of the road network have been implemented with funds from the European Regional Development Fund and the State of Lower Saxony. The Lower Saxony test field comprises sections of the A2, A7, A39, A391 motorways and parts of the federal and state roads B3, B6, B243, and L295. It also integrates the established routes of the Intelligent mobility application platform (Aim), which is in operation in the city center of Braunschweig. This enables testing in different traffic situations and in the transition between different road types. In total, the test field in Lower Saxony will cover more than 280 kilometers with sectors of various technical equipment after completion.