Vehicle communication is rushing into 5G world

Fredrik Tufvesson
Fredrik Tufvesson, Professor at Lund University, steers Volvo Cars’ research car. For ten years, the research group at ELLIIT has collaborated with various vehicle manufacturers on vehicle communication. Photo: Kennet Ruona

For ten years, researchers in communications engineering in Lund have worked in close collaboration with Volvo Cars and other vehicle manufacturers to study communication between vehicles. The result is robust communication solutions that function in all surroundings.

There’s been an accident and rapid help is needed. If the car involved is a Volvo, it has already contacted the emergency services. If the vehicle in front slams on its brakes, the car will automatically brake to keep at a suitable distance. Everything is based on robust communication.

“Robust is a key concept here. If we have come to depend on communication technology, it must always work – with no exceptions”, says Fredrik Tufvesson, professor of radio systems in the Department of Electrical and Information Technology at Lund University.

The systems must function in all weather conditions and in all surroundings: in a snowstorm at -40 °C just as well in baking desert temperatures and a sandstorm, when the vehicle is stationary just as well as when it travels at 200 km/h.

“Communication solutions have become important when people choose a car. The system should be able to communicate with the surroundings if something happens, and it should also be able to receive and stream music and video inside the car”, says Fredrik Tufvesson.

Understand in depth

Within ELLIIT, he has been working with his group at Lund University on vehicle communication for the past 10 years, in collaboration with Volvo Cars and other vehicle manufacturers. ELLIIT has functioned as an umbrella for collaboration within four projects that are part of the Strategic Vehicle Research and Innovation Programme (FFI) financed by Vinnova. Other actors in addition to Volvo Cars have participated in the various projects, such as Volvo Trucks, Terranet, and researchers at the School of Information Technology at Halmstad University.

“We needed in-depth understanding of how the communication between two mobile units, in this case cars, can work. The challenges that must be solved differ from those when one unit is a stationary mast. We have developed models and investigated the physical processes to find out what must be given priority in order to construct a robust system for communication between mobile units”, says Fredrik Tufvesson.

Fredrik Tufvesson
“Robust is a key concept here. If we have come to depend on communication technology, it must always work – with no exceptions”, says Fredrik Tufvesson. Photo: Kennet Ruona

Broad experience

The scientists have subsequently analysed possibilities and limitations, and developed models that make it possible to test algorithms and simulate the systems in the computer, instead of building expensive prototypes and carrying out test driving.

Many of the researchers and students who have worked in the Vinnova projects are now working at Volvo Cars, and have been able to influence the development of communication solutions. Experiences from the different collaboration projects have also contributed to the design of Volvo’s 5G strategy.

The research is now progressing to new objectives: the next step concerns how cars are to help each other, for example to discover an obstacle.

“If a cyclist suddenly appears in front of your car, the cars behind will be informed of this so that they can all brake at the same time”, Fredrik Tufvesson explains.

Well-functioning communication

Another important field of use is in vehicle convoys, where trucks drive with small separations.
“We can achieve fuel savings of 20% by driving close behind the truck in front. Even the front truck of a vehicle convoy achieves lower fuel consumption, as a consequence of the changed patterns of air eddies behind it. But it all depends on having a functioning system of signalling between the vehicles, along the complete length of the convoy.”

Another example in which vehicle communication is necessary is motorway driving with two cars travelling parallel to each other at high speed. Both try to move into the same lane at the same time, which is a situation that often leads to accidents.

ELLIIT research within vehicle communication contributes in this way to higher safety, a reduced risk of accidents, lower fuel consumption, and – not least – competitive advantages for the vehicle manufacturers who participate.

Translation by George Farrants

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