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The future is coming: the next normal of mobility on our roads

09 Jun 2021
Erik Brenneis

Erik Brenneis

IoT Director, Vodafone Business

Recent research by McKinsey highlights how “the crisis has given automotive OEMs, suppliers, and other mobility players a new revenue and profit mandate: develop a sustainable business strategy that aligns with the realities of the next normal.”

Many factors need to be taken into consideration to understand what that “next normal” will look like, but the past year has undoubtedly highlighted how sustainability and road safety are key core concerns for road users, may they be cyclists, pedestrians or drivers.

And with more than 70% of cars built with telematics capabilities today, its clear the path is towards a more interconnected, safer and greener customer-centric ecosystem.

Vehicles to everything

But what does having vehicles with digital capabilities mean for today’s mobility world?

It means they can report on their overall condition, detect theft attack and stream high-quality media, for instance. But it also means they can proactively alert users of faults before they become an issue, enable usage-based insurance solutions (UBI) and even automatically call emergency services in the event of a crash.

However, today’s vehicles are no longer isolated pods, travelling on roads. They are part of an ecosystem and they can connect to virtually anything thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT).

This ecosystem also includes a connected infrastructure that can provide the vehicles and their users with critical data on road conditions and traffic, for instance, enhancing safety, reducing pollution by optimising journeys and paving the way for autonomous driving.

The benefits of being part of this ecosystem for vehicle users can also include integration of automatic payments for tolls, parking, electric vehicles charging and even, in the future, usage-based road-tax.

And thanks to the smartphone in our pockets, new mobility services will be provided to drivers, like driving-behaviour monitoring apps to reduce premiums, micro-insurance services for short journeys and electric-vehicles route optimisation technology, so drivers don’t have to worry about recharging their vehicles.

An information superhighway

Notwithstanding the evolution of connectivity and mobility technologies, what we call Vehicle-To-Everything (V2X), the first step towards truly safe and efficient autonomous driving, has often felt like something associated with a future yet to come, especially on open roads.

But this week, we announced we’re trialling a powerful new mobility cloud platform on the open road for the first time in the UK that is set to revolutionise the way vehicles and drivers interact with the infrastructure they travel on.

Working with Nokia and Chordant, with support from the UK Government Centre for Connected and Automated Vehicles (CCAV) and the Midlands Future Mobility (MFM) consortium, we are using our fast 4G and 5G network and advanced multi-access edge computing technology to get real-time road information from Highways England to drivers.

Thanks to this solution, road users in the West Midlands are being provided with live, highly localised and targeted updates from road operators on lane closers, speed restrictions and traffic incidents.

Road authorities are also trialling the platform to control and ease traffic jams and make informed planning decisions using secure, anonymised and aggregated vehicle position data sent up to 10 times every second from drivers who have opted into the service.

The information will be displayed initially on driver’s smartphones, and in the future, on in-car infotainment systems.

Groundbreakingly, this capability could also be extended to emergency services when responding to an incident, such as someone driving the wrong way on a motorway, or for breakdown recovery organisations to assist vulnerable road users.

As connected cars will be able to "talk" or share information about their status with other vehicles, emergency responders will be able to help stranded drivers, even in locations normally not easy to pinpoint.

Finally, unlike existing systems, which rely on stationary roadside infrastructure to provide a picture of road conditions, the platform uses data generated from the movement and position of the vehicle. This makes it an ideal choice for car manufacturers, fleet companies and haulage firms that are looking at integrating V2X capabilities in their vehicles moving forward.

The new seatbelt

Seatbelts have been responsible for reducing serious crash-related deaths and injuries by half1, but connectivity, in particular 5G, is poised to have an even more transformative impact on road safety and usage.

Whilst the seatbelt primarily protected drivers and passengers in the car, 5G has the potential to protect other road users and pedestrians around the car as well by connecting them to the wider infrastructure and the digital transport ecosystem.

However, realising these benefits will take significant work and governments, automakers and technology companies need to act together to deliver this huge advance.

Helping reduce congestion and pollution while protecting people, there is no doubt ‘vehicle to everything’ solutions are the future and will create long term value for the whole of society.

Learn more about the trial of the first UK mobile “vehicle to everything” road safety system going live and learn what our Automotive director, Gion Baker, has to say about the future of this sector.

1 https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/809199

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