For the technology (that supports autonomous vehicles) to work, it is probably just a matter of time and trials, although you shouldn’t assume that technical development will be as coordinated and controlled as traditional ITS systems have been in the past. ITS systems have been much simpler. CAVs that have greater connectivity, with each other and the infrastructure, will offer much more than being simple autonomous driving support services. Therefore, the vehicles will need a vastly improved communication network, most likely a mixture of 5G mobile and high speed Wi-Fi, implemented across the entire network.
“Testing and accepting CAV vehicles will be complex, just like their in-vehicle systems. Social acceptance will be a challenge, although autonomous vehicles could provide huge benefits and support social inclusion. Insurance will need to be considered carefully so that in case of incidents, there is clarity on where the blame lies”.
Wider CAV strategy
Along with all of these technological and service changes, what also needs to be considered is how everything will be procured and paid for? Legislation will need to support CAVs and services whilst communication and operations will need to be standardised to support interoperability, resilience and security. Testing and accepting CAV vehicles will be complex, just like their in-vehicle systems. Social acceptance will be a challenge, although autonomous vehicles could provide huge benefits and support social inclusion. Insurance will need to be considered carefully so that in case of incidents, there is clarity on where the blame lies. Some countries are well ahead in their thinking on these issues and have ideas on how legislation and insurance need to change. Many roads authorities have at least an outline strategy for nurturing and adopting CAVs and associated services (early services) and benefits (including huge economic benefits) they may bring. There is a global connection between many countries on the key issues, although less so on the services as many countries are considering their own priorities and service delivery mechanisms for CAV services.
The cost of a future proofed and appropriate communication network as well as necessary infrastructure changes will be significant. Additionally, the potential complexity of CAV service provision will present huge challenges if authorities are to consider consistency of information to all drivers and avoid vendor lock-in. Motorists will inevitably pay for infrastructure and their associated services, when traditional services were part of the package. If they are to use it, they will want to see tangible benefits to journey quality and time, and less likely to be convinced by much else.
Delivering the service
For the services that CAV can provide, starting with safety related services (such as obstruction warnings, incidents or weather warnings ahead for example), we will need someone to deliver these services. These may be provided by the state, commercial partners or a combination of the two, depending possibly on the type of service needed. The services will evolve from safety based information to navigation and parking information and proceed to entertainment services. The provision of these will require not only a robust and future-proofed communication network but a strategy on how the data will be collected, and how information will be shared, managed and delivered safely and securely. The vehicles themselves, when operating autonomously, in particular, will need to be protected from hackers and misinformation.
The next generation of Smart Roads will come but the order in which things are considered, who will lead and who will pay is the subject of much debate and it’s not getting in the way of a race to fundamentally change the roads network.