October is pedestrian safety month

Everyone walks a bit during the day. It’s basically a healthy activity, but pedestrian safety is a pressing issue. You have to be very careful if you want to get around in traffic. 

A pedestrian is killed in 17% of road collisions.

The US Department of Transportation is dedicating the entire month of October to pedestrian safety to raise awareness of the related issues. Their goals couldn’t be closer to Commsignia. We want to ensure that all road users communicate with each other and that vulnerable road users are always safe.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has divided the month into four themes on its website last year, and we think we have answers to all of them.

Everyone deserves the highest quality of safety 

Technology cannot discriminate between modes of transport: everyone needs the same quality of safety. Commsignia’s broad V2X portfolio treats all road users equally. It’s also able to include unconnected pedestrians in the vehicle communication network, making vulnerable road users more visible to drivers.

Drive at a safe speed even if the rules have changed

Some trips take you through special events or areas that require more attention. Speed limits near schools and roadworks are often different from the usual. Rules can change from one hour to the next. For example, school children may be allowed to go home earlier. V2X will always inform you about the current speed limit.

It works even if you’ve left the traditional roadside sign behind and can’t remember what it said.  Digital solutions like V2X allow dynamic speed control, so restrictions can be lifted or eased when no one is working in a work zone.  

Connecting vehicles with each other for better road safety

Connected vehicles send standardized V2X messages with important parameters to upgrade well-known applications such as lane change assist, collision warning and cruise control by understanding traffic situations from the perspective of other vehicles. There’s no need to have a line of sight between the vehicles to share messages. V2X works in harsh weather conditions such as fog and heavy snow.

In addition to cars, Commsignia V2X also covers micromobility, so that pedestrians and two-wheeled vehicles can safely co-exist on the roads.

Safer roads are built on better insights

Traffic data provide a rock-solid foundation for well-designed roadways. Commsignia Central Data and Device Manager platform can use connected vehicles and smart sensors to collect information on potential conflict zones. So road managers know exactly where to improve the built environment – before serious accidents happen.

How V2X solutions work

Vehicle-to-everything, or V2X solutions connect road users with each other and the infrastructure. International standards ensure that cars, motorcycles, bicycles and roadside equipment from different manufacturers send messages to each other in a language they all understand.

V2X has a range of more than half a mile and does not require a direct line of sight, expanding the space where we perceive other objects in traffic.

Connectivity in the automotive industry

Vehicles generate messages with a V2X software stack. It can run on a dedicated V2X OBU, a retrofitted on-board unit, but car manufacturers usually install it on their own electronic equipment.

V2X is like a heartbeat, vehicles typically send ten messages per second. These messages contain important parameters such as the accurate geographical location, the actual speed, velocity and direction of the vehicle, and the status of brakes and hazard warning lights.

Vehicles receiving V2X messages run applications based on this vast amount of information to display alerts of potential dangers. Messages can be read by all V2X-enabled vehicles, but only the relevant ones are used. In most cases, messages from a car on the other side of the highway are not useful from a safety point of view. Unless the data tells us that the vehicle is going off the road, possibly crossing our path.

Applications are divided into several categories according to their level of complexity.

  • Day 1 applications includes basic awareness solutions, all of which are technically feasible today. These apps provide alerts about traffic jams, accidents, objects on the road, construction zones and poor weather or road conditions. 
  • Some of the more advanced Day 2 applications are still under development or finalization. One of the best-known Day 2 apps is platooning, which coordinates autonomous and cooperative driving of high-speed caravans of trucks to move efficiently.

Road safety applications use a dedicated radio frequency on the 5.9 GHz band, because life-saving V2X solutions require direct connection with low latency. Other information that is less sensitive to response time, such as weather and traffic conditions, can be shared over 4G or 5G connections.

Smart infrastructure

The V2X RSU or roadside unit is an important part of the V2X ecosystem. It has its own processing power, sends and receives messages. An RSU also acts like a hub for roadside sensors: smart cameras, radars and lidars. These sensors are usually installed by the road infrastructure owner to look at the traffic – from a different angle than cars. RSUs play an important role in recognizing the unconnected traffic participants, particularly the vulnerable road users. 

RSUs has the ability to forward traffic data to the Commsignia Central Data and Device Manager software to enable traffic managers visualizing road events on a map. Central can also be used for device maintenance and V2X message creation.

Several elements of traditional road infrastructure can be linked to the RSUs. For example, traffic light controllers can provide signal phase and timing information via V2X for trucks and normal passenger cars. Moreover, first responders, buses and urban maintenance fleets can even request priority at V2X-enabled intersections. In Denver, Colorado, snowplow trucks cross intersections by requesting a green light, causing less disruption to traffic.

V2X solutions are essential for self-driving vehicles, because messages contain more accurate information than the vehicle’s sensors can detect. In Las Vegas, self-driving taxis are receiving traffic light information from Commsignia RSUs to improve decision making and move through intersections faster.

The evolution of V2X solutions

Security in V2X solutions

The whole V2X system is built up in a way to prevent tracking and protect the users’ privacy. The messages don’t contain personally identifiable information.

The messaging is secure, authenticated by digital signatures. No one wants to see information in a car coming from unknown sources, just as we don’t want to receive spam, scam and phishing emails in our inbox. 

Cars have certificates to prove their authenticity. They have thousands of certificates that frequently change to prevent tracking. The whole certification system has been built up in a way that no one entity, no one authority sees the whole picture. Those who roll out the certificates don’t know which car will get those certificates.

Thousands of smart sensors are waiting for a V2X upgrade

There are thousands of smart sensors along city roads to monitor traffic, and it is worth installing a V2X upgrade to improve road safety. This is especially true for pedestrians and other vulnerable road users.

According to the USDOT, pedestrian fatalities increased by 44% between 2010 and 2019, urging improved safety

The USDOT pedestrian safety action plan mentions V2P (vehicle-to-pedestrian) solutions that sense the environment and relay that information to vehicles. The USDOT also highlights some V2X applications. For example, warning systems for visually impaired pedestrians that alert drivers of their presence at the crosswalk.

Both V2X and smart sensors are proven solutions in transport, and it’s easy to combine them. The traffic sensors are usually already connected to an IT network with built-in cyber security, which is also suitable for V2X. On the other hand, upgrading V2X roadside units with sensors is also simple, it doesn’t require disassembly of the RSU, so we can maintain the hardware and software integrity of the device.

Just as infrared cameras can detect all road users day and night, regardless of size, shape or visibility, V2X upgrades can increase road safety for all road users.

Sensors provide valuable data used in traffic management centers. V2X brings in new, more local possibilities. A roadside unit (RSU) can detect pedestrians and alert other road users immediately. The RSU also sends the data to the traffic centers in the same way. 

Roadside units in such settings broadcast various standardized V2X warnings to road users. For example Pedestrian Safety Messages (PSM) and Cooperative Perception Messages (CPM). V2X-enabled vehicles can process both of these message types. Ultimately, this will give them a more accurate picture of road events. We can even determine the position of VRUs: pedestrians, cyclists, and e-scooters.

On-board driver assistance systems can calculate a better route based on V2X data, so drivers will use only free and safe lanes.

Moreover, an RSU can take control of local traffic, which is a much more sophisticated response to dangerous situations. It is possible to turn traffic lights red to close the intersection, activate a flashing warning, or close the level crossing barrier to avoid accidents. 

The solution is always adapted to the specific situation.  

It is easy to see that a V2X car can play an active role in these events. However, non-V2X vehicles also benefit from V2X-connected sensors through on-board cloud services. These sensors already distribute information about various road events and weather updates. 

Commsignia provides solutions to identify vulnerable road users and predict their movement. This is possible using various types of sensors, including cameras, infrared sensors, lidars and radars. Our goal is to collect and combine overlapping data to get a complete picture of what’s happening on and around the road. This way, road users will have reliable information and can then make better decisions in safety and with confidence.

Here’s one way to improve road worker safety with V2X

The National Work Zone Awareness Week, coordinated by U.S. DOT’s Federal Highway Administration, drew our attention to how vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communications can vastly improve road worker safety.

A while back, we supported a Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) research effort by supplying our V2X roadside and onboard units in a work zone safety setting. In this case study, road maintenance workers wore VTTI’s V2X-enabled vests that warned them of cars passing nearby, and at the same time warned drivers of the V2X-equipped vehicles to drive carefully. VTTI, in partnership with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has deployed 11 roadside units in the Virginia Connected Corridor test bed in Northern Virginia and is already planning additional research efforts.

An exciting automation project using Commsignia’s devices at VTTI’s Division for Technology Implementation is related to work zone truck-mounted attenuator (TMA) construction vehicles. These large vehicles have crash cushions on the back to shadow dynamic work zones and protect those who are working on the shoulders. Even so, driving such a truck is a stressful job with a high risk of injury.

New technologies can help improve road worker safety

An automated vehicle is a great way to remove this stress and improve safety. VTTI is developing an autonomous system that allows the TMA truck to follow a lead vehicle on full automation, thus removing the human driver from a dangerous situation. By deploying a remote operator to one of its offices, VTTI plans to use low latency C-V2X and 4G LTE connections to oversee the work zone on a video stream and collect telemetry data from the autonomous vehicle.

The purpose of this system is to stop automatic operation if the operator sees that something is wrong or the autonomous system detects an obstacle which requires an operator to maneuver around. VTTI’s researchers will examine how C-V2X and 4G technologies can complement each other to provide a reliable connection between an autonomous vehicle platform and an operator.

VTTI is also working on another effort called the Smart Work Zone. This use case will extend VTTI’s Smart Vest capabilities to support C-V2X communications through a base station which will be connected to a C-V2X RSU, and it will be processing SAE J2735 BSM and PSM messages in order to alert both the connected vehicle and VRU that could be present on a work zone activity area.

We strongly believe that V2X makes road work zones safer, and VTTI’s work is a good example of this. If you are a highway operator or a transport tech researcher, contact our colleagues on how we can work together.

And, as a reminder to all drivers: 

Drive carefully near work zones 

Your attention can save lives.

EU’s Smart Mobility Strategy offers huge opportunities for C-ITS

The new EU strategy is mainly focusing on zero emission vehicles, high-speed rail networks and micromobility, and C-ITS have tremendous opportunities in many related areas. Those battery electric vehicles will come with 3 million public charging stations planned to be set up by 2030, and V2X will come handy to optimize the load on the grid. 

Not all cars are equal at the charging station. 

Most of the family vehicles probably run less than an hour per day (more typical in the EU than in the US), only a minority needs the fastest charging possible. Cooperative and communicating vehicles can easily arrange power usage with the infrastructure, based on general preferences, ad-hoc settings or usage patterns analyzed by AI algorithms.

One hundred European cities will be carbon neutral by 2030 according to the strategy, and this is a goal where C-ITS can play an even bigger role. The area of car-free zones will increase, leaving more areas for pedestrians and micromobility services including bicycles, e-scooters and other exotic personal transportation devices. Road usage must be highly optimized to let the traffic flow as safely and fast as possible, and the flexibility offered by V2X will be more than welcome.

Traffic light information, warnings about vulnerable road users in the proximity of the vehicle, dynamic speed limits are all on the V2X menu, giving drivers the confidence in this increasingly complex environment.

Safety goal: zero road fatalities

Some of our partners have different goals with V2X, trying to reduce air pollution and congestion with digital road infrastructure. Just imagine a 15 tonnes heavy truck in front of you in the traffic, as it’s struggling to gain speed after a full stop at the red light. Feel that unpleasant smoke? That same truck could optimize it’s speed for greens, not stopping at all, while other vehicles could easily pass by. It’s a win for everyone.

As the strategy states, we will see automated mobility deployed at a large scale during the next 3 decades. Self driving vehicles should also rely on V2X infrastructure, as they do in our Las Vegas deployment, to see beyond the street corners, perfectly align with traffic lights, so they can travel reliably and safely on public roads shared with older, non self driving cars. 

Regardless of the expected high degree of automation this ambitious strategy won’t become a reality automatically. Artificial Intelligence and 5G support the future of transportation, therefore a decent 5G coverage, harmonized and abundant spectrum and legal support for new technologies such as self driving vehicles is a must. A strongly supported pan-European deployment plan along the busiest trade corridors will surely boost C-ITS development, and push the EU towards a smart and sustainable future.