"The European project aims to provide seamless and harmonised V2X services, from one country to another using mobile networks."
What potential barriers are there to the connected self-driving car? Every year, technological developments in this field bring us closer and closer to the highest level of autonomy — vehicles that can drive themselves, without drivers or passengers. But this progress has a very real limit in the form of national borders. The question of how to provide seamless and harmonised CCAM services from one country to another using the new mobile networks is being explored in depth by the 5G CroCo consortium.
Three use cases, a huge potential for innovation
This European project, itself part of 5G PPP (the 5G Infrastructure Public Private Partnership) Phase 3, involves 24 partners from 7 countries, including carriers, network equipment manufacturers, vehicle manufacturers and suppliers, a motorway operations manager, research institutes and SMEs.
Its research work is divided into five work packages—preparation for trials and test sites, software and network architecture, execution of tests, V2X business potentials and exploitation of results—and three use cases. “The first [use case] concerns tele-operated driving or how to control a vehicle from a remote operation centre”, explains Stefan Wendt, Radio Communications Expert and Senior Project Manager at Orange. “The second focuses on high-definition mapping and investigating how to update maps to reflect the emergence or development of certain parameters along traffic lanes. The final use case is ACCA (Anticipated Cooperative Collision Avoidance), which aims to use the intelligence of the network to transmit alerts from one stationary or broken-down vehicle to others.” To this end, a series of tests is initially being carried out on five small-scale sites, before moving on to real roads, namely two cross-border corridors — between Germany and Luxembourg and Germany and France.
5G, a key technical enabler for ACCA
In the context of this project, Orange’s expertise is particularly valuable in terms of assessing and validating the feasibility of the ACCA use case. Despite the increasing number of in-vehicle sensors (radars, cameras lidars etc.), the vehicles still have a limited awareness of their surroundings and, even more so, a limited ability to detect and anticipate certain dangerous situations. The ACCA use case aims to improve vehicle reactions by facilitating the anticipated detection and localisation of events such as traffic jams or emergency braking. For this, a car must be able to share data via a geoservice embedded in a server that is part of the V2X infrastructure. Facilitated by the 5G network performance, Mobile Edge Computing capabilities and slicing, “the ACCA system relies on both local data processing and cloud computing”, explains Stefan Wendt. “A traffic management system interacts with the various geoservices, while the software architecture allows urgent messages to be issued, for every car in its region of interest, within a 10–20 km radius. We will ultimately be able to manage all vehicles, transmit data, monitor traffic, prioritise tasks and provide local warnings very quickly”.
Here, 5G leverages its potential in URLL (Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency) communication and MEC (Multi-access Edge Computing) to help process data as close as possible to the vehicles and provide real-time signalling.
Focusing on a cross-border context
Although the tests carried out in September 2020 at the TEQMO site in Montlhéry, France, validated the 5G Non StandAlone and software network architecture required, certain questions remain. “We need to concentrate on reality, on the networks as they are now, and therefore look closely at the switch between 4G and 5G networks. We found that the transition between networks in a cross-border context required further fine-tuning and configuration. We also need optimal service continuity and interaction between 5G infrastructures from one side of the border to another. The corresponding service architecture also needs to be fine-tuned so that it is capable of registering messages in different formats”.
These different critical bricks in the service will be analysed and optimised in anticipation of the move from testing to real-life large-scale situations. A testing campaign is planned for 2021 on several sections of private road along the French A320 motorway between Forbach and Saarbrücken. In the meantime, the new generation of mobile networks is already demonstrating its ability to support the use cases linked to CCAM services, thanks in particular to Edge Computing and reliability guarantee mechanisms.