Part 2: Connectivity and Autonomy

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What’s the difference between autonomous and connected vehicles?

We often group Connected and Autonomous Vehicles together under the same acronym as ‘CAVs’. But, connected vehicles and autonomous vehicles are not the same.

Autonomous vehicles are vehicles that can perform some or all functions without intervention from a human driver. It’s forecasted that we’ll see over 8 million autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles by 2025.

In most cases, autonomous vehicles are also connected vehicles, but not all connected vehicles are autonomous. Most autonomous vehicles have connected sensors such as lane departure or blind spot detection, but not all connected vehicles have autonomous functionalities.

Not all autonomous vehicles are created equal. There are 6 levels of vehicle autonomy:

Level 0: No automation
  • Human interaction performs all tasks relating to driving and operating the vehicle. Most cars today are at this level. Safety features like blind spot detection and forward-collision warnings are still considered level 0 because these safety systems are not responsible for driving the vehicle.
Level 1: Driver assistance
  • The simplest form of vehicle automation. The system can perform sub-tasks that are short-term and still require a driver present. An example of level 1 autonomy is cruise control and hands-on lane centering.
Level 2: Partial driving autonomy
  • Level 2 autonomy allows cars to perform autonomous functions for longer periods than level 1  under driver supervision, such as adaptive cruise control. It’s still expected and required for drivers to have their hands on the wheel for any emergency action.
Level 3: Conditional driving autonomy
  • Level 3 introduces a sustained and specific performance from an automated system. The driver is not constantly supervising the vehicle and is on ‘stand-by’ to take control in the case of an emergency.  An example of level 3 autonomy is the car performing some level of self-driving in low-speed areas. Level 3 is currently not legal in most countries, but there are plans to legalise it in Australia, US, and the UK by 2025.
Level 4: High driving autonomy
  • High Driving autonomy does not require any human interaction to drive a vehicle, even in emergencies or system failure. Certain level 4 vehicles may require some human interaction to handle road transitions (i.e., from main road to highway) or between restricted geographical regions where autonomous driving is not permitted. Alphabet is currently testing level 4 self-driving taxi services in Arizona
Level 5: Full driving autonomy
  • Requires no human interaction - fully-autonomous and self-driving vehicles.

Most car manufacturers have already started to include hardware that supports higher levels of autonomous driving. In most cases, a firmware update can be pushed to enable more autonomous features to go live once various governments and legal jurisdictions allow higher levels of autonomy to operate on road networks.

You can also read our blog post about the 7 different kinds of vehicle connectivity.

Connected Cars versus Autonomous Cars
How do connected vehicles help to make our roads autonomous-ready?

Connected vehicles help to inform autonomous-ready networks because the data they provide helps to map coverage, where autonomous systems are failing, and under what conditions they are failing.

For example, connected vehicle data can help identify where signage is hard to identify or obscured by other objects, or identify areas in the network where additional intelligent infrastructure might be needed to support widespread roll-out of autonomous vehicles.

How do connected vehicles relate to Internet of Things (IoT) and Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS)?

Connected Vehicles are part of the ITS and IoT ecosystems.

Internet of Things (IoT) describes physical objects or ‘things’ that have sensors, software, and other technology embedded in them, often with an internet or Bluetooth connection. These objects extend beyond vehicles or transport - most Smart Home appliances ranging from Google Home, dynamic lighting, smart fridges, and even toasters are all part of the IoT ecosystem. Connected cars include similar kinds of technology, connectivity, and software, making them part of IoT.

Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) is part of the IoT network that relates specifically to roads, vehicles, and road infrastructure. The goal of ITS is to improve road network efficiency and safety by digitising parts of the infrastructure. It takes advantage of new technology that falls under IoT such as sensors and new bi-directional data transfer between other cars and parts of the physical road network.

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The growth in tech-enabled devices, including connected vehicles, has largely been facilitated by an expansion of internet and data networks and their speeds. The new 5G connectivity rollout is also driving growth, facilitating faster uptake of IoT devices at larger scale and greater speed.

Click here to read Part 3: The Data