future view

ICT important to the success of a self-driving car

31 July 2018 • 5 min reading time

How do you ensure that self-driving vehicles have the right information in good time, that networks are not overloaded and that the exchange of information is also secure? TNO's research is bringing the future of self-driving vehicles that bit closer.

The self-driving car has potential, but there is still some way to go. “Even with all kinds of sensors and intelligent decision systems on board, it remains a complex challenge to allow a vehicle to drive completely independently,” explains Bram van den Ende, project manager at TNO. “It is also not practical to assume that an autonomous vehicle will navigate exclusively using its own sensors. You can only really exploit the enormous potential of self-driving cars if you integrate externally available information, in other vehicles or external systems, that cannot be measured with sensors.”

Improve information exchange for self-driving vehicles

“If you buy a car now, there is a good chance that it will contain at least a SIM card and that it is already using specific cloud services provided by the manufacturer,” says Van den Ende. “TNO is currently helping manufacturers to take a big step further. We are looking at how you can improve the information exchange for self-driving cars in a way that is open, unambiguous, scalable and, at the same time, secure. In this way, the next generation of vehicles will be able to easily connect to various suitable sources of information and new forms of service will become possible.”

“We are looking at how you can improve the information exchange for self-driving cars in a way that is open, unambiguous, scalable and, at the same time, secure”

Speaking the same language

“Think of information systems that fully inform the vehicle about all aspects of the road on which it drives,” Van den Ende continues. “Such as approaching vehicles, traffic lights and road layout. Vehicles can also inform each other, provided, of course, that they speak the same language. Such information services already exist, but they are less detailed and are aimed at informing the driver rather than informing the car. That makes a big difference.”

The added value of connected driving

In the European AUTOPILOT project TNO, with more than ten parties in the Brainport Eindhoven-Helmond region, is showing how vehicles in the surrounding area can benefit from each other's observations, i.e. what can be achieved with connected automated driving. “AUTOPILOT has six local pilots,” says Van den Ende. “The Brainport Pilot is the largest. Pilot projects are also underway in Tampere (Finland), Versailles (France), Livorno (Italy), Vigo (Spain) and even Daejeon (Korea).

At each of these pilot sites we demonstrate that the exchange of information actually works in self-driving cars. As soon as we are ready, we invite people to take a seat in the vehicles so that they can personally experience the added value of connected automatic driving.”

Parking is automatic

In the use case 'Urban Driving', vehicles drive fully automatically from A to B. However, the driver can take back control of the vehicle at any time he deems necessary. This use case will be carried out in each of the six pilot sites. Another use case is Automated Valet Parking (ATP). Van den Ende explains: “The driver leaves his car at the entrance to a parking lot, for example, because he is late for a dinner. His car then searches for a free space under the guidance of the parking management system. As soon as the driver returns, he can ask the car to leave its parking place and drive to the entrance.”

“With 'Automated Valet Parking', the driver leaves his car at the entrance of a parking lot, for example; the car, under the guidance of the system, looks for a free space itself”

High fun content

“Of course, services can still be linked to this, such as automatic settlement of payments. All the actions involved - the observation of other parked vehicles and vehicles moving on site, parking and moving on again - are carried out automatically by the car, with global instructions from the system. We are carrying out this use case in Brainport, Tampere and Vigo. It's a use case with high fun content, but we learn a lot about how to make vehicles intelligent and use the information that is available.”

IT standards

“By allowing some use cases to feature at multiple pilot sites, we ensure that we gain experience with the same use case, in different situations, and can also evaluate pilots in a comprehensive manner; an important role for TNO. The project will be completed at the end of 2019. The idea is to standardise the project results so that manufacturers can adopt them in the design and manufacture of their vehicles. We are already working on this.”

“As soon as 5G reaches full maturity, the combination of ICT and automotive technology will also be sufficiently mature to be used on public roads to a certain scale”

5G and satellite communications

In particular, 5G and satellite communications play an important role in the collection of information by self-driving. Van den Ende: “For clients such as KPN, we have been active for many years in innovations and in the standardisation of mobile communication networks. And for about five years now also around 5G. In the standardisation of complex protocols, such as for direct communication between smartphones in a mobile network, we should be mindful of aspects that are essential for operators, such as frequency management. Satellite communication is another type of connection and has long been on the sidelines, but that is going to change. Because we include satellite communication in the 5G standardisation, it can become an integral and valuable part of those networks. In particular, larger countries where mobile coverage with terrestrial transmitters is not an obvious option will benefit greatly from satellite communications for the successful introduction of connected automated driving.”

From 4G to 5G

“Until 2025, we will be working on further innovations that will make the self-driving car better and safer, we will be running pilot projects and looking at the conditions under which something works or doesn't work,” concludes Van den Ende. “In doing this, we are making full use of the possibilities offered by 4G, as we are already doing with truck platooning. In the period between 2020 and 2030, 5G will reach full maturity. Partly as a result of this, the combination of ICT and automotive technology will also be sufficiently mature to be used on public roads to a certain scale. Whether this concerns truck platooning because of its economic added value for the sector and the Dutch industry, or because of personal convenience because it' s nice if your car can automatically do things for you.”

Intensive cooperation

The self-driving car has potential – this much is certain. But there is still some way to go. Putting this type of vehicle on the road demands close cooperation between TNO, the industry, and government. We are eager to enter that cooperation. Do you have ideas of your own, or would you like to know more? We look forward to hearing from you.

Read more

More information can be found on the page 'TNO and the self-driving car'. TNO outlines the potential of the self-driving car. Different facets are discussed: technology development and validation, effects on traffic flow, ICT and the human factor. You will also find relevant links to pages on TNO.nl.


Or would you like to know more about one of the four discussed preconditions for the transition to automated driving? Then we would like to get in touch with you.

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