ICCVE: The Importance of Open Standards

Jon Adams

December 18, 2012

5 Min Read
ICCVE: The Importance of Open Standards

The session on Standards for Connected Vehicles at the International Conference on Connected Vehicles and Expo (ICCVE), held December 12 through December 16 in Beijing, was opened by Rich Hulett, chairman of the IEEE Standards Association Board of Directors, on the importance of open standards.

Dr. Bob Heile, CEO of the ZigBee Alliance and chairman of IEEE 802.15 Working Group, drove home some of the more interesting aspects of the electric vehicle. Did you ever think that an electric/hybrid car looks like a load, when it's charging from the network, but at other times, it might be a source of energy, either stored from the night before, or from solar panels on the roof of the house from the day before? In the latter case, it can become a mobile power generating station. Millions of electric vehicles mean hundreds of millions of kWh of energy, which if managed effectively, can help to smooth out demand and generation. While the opportunities to improve energy and transportation efficiencies abound, Heile documented some of the significant standards-related remaining challenges for both governments and industry to settle.

Next up was Qi Yang, secretary general of the China National Technical Committee of ITS standardization. She briefed the crowd on the structure of the standardization efforts within China for Intelligent Vehicles -- more than 100 standards are already published, with another 50 in process. Fundamental standards include terms and definitions, basic codes, location services. The subsystems that follow include dedicated short-range communications, traffic and emergency management, electronic toll, and other important aspects of a future ITS. She believes that the Electronic Toll services for the nation's highways may be the first opportunity. Over the next five years, China will invest more than RMB20 billion (US$3 billion) in R&D for ITS.

Jon Adams (that's me), chairman of the IEEE 802.15.4p Positive Train Control Task Group, routed the session toward the interaction between rubber-tired vehicles and rail transit. Consider the horrific accident in Midland, Texas, last month when a parade float carrying disabled veterans went into a grade crossing with lights, bells, and gates active, and was struck by a freight train traveling at about 100km/hr. Lives were lost, families and bodies broken. How can improvements in wireless communications between vehicles, including rail, help to reduce accidents like this?

There are more than 140,000 grade crossings in the US alone, and it's impractical to hope that getting rid of all those grade crossings can happen anytime soon. My point was that there is room in the existing proposed standards for ITS to add rail transit to the intelligent vehicle universe, and in fact, should be done to allow rubber-tired vehicles to know, in new and intelligent ways, whether or not to cross the railroad tracks.

Bruce Kramer, from Marvell Semiconductor and chairman of the IEEE 802.11 Working Group, spoke of the automobile as a mobile office and hotspot, in addition to the work that has been done to date in establishing IEEE 802.11p as the baseline for Dedicated Short Range Communications for intelligent vehicles. 802.11's humble beginnings 22 years ago with a use case for wireless linking of cash registers has led to dozens of amendments to that original standard, and hundreds of new applications that had never been considered before. Right now, about 3 million 802.11 chips ship every day, more than 1 billion devices getting 802.11 communications every year. Originally, it was mostly laptop PCs that used 802.11, but now connected pads and tablets are the leaders. IEEE 802.11p was a project that started in 2004, published in 2010, and is now starting to be used in ITS demonstration projects.

ASTM International representative Liu Fei highlighted a vision of future connected vehicles, where vehicles can move freely, safely, and efficiently, just like a fish swimming in the sea. For this to happen, there needs to be an integration of advanced transponders, network, computation, auto-control, and advanced automation. Associated technologies include GPS, RFID, cellular, and DSRC. Challenges exist -- one thing is innovation, the other is to establish standards that all can follow and to work to drive down cost so that all may have access.

Yatin Trivedi, who is on the board of the IEEE Industry Standards and Technology Organization, stressed the importance of open standards and open collaboration among all interested parties, not just specific stakeholders. Standards education is vital to teaching why standards are important -- proprietary approaches often fall short when presented with new or unforeseen environments. Engineers also may find value in taking advantage of existing standards rather than "reinventing the wheel." Silicon circuit designers don't need to also develop the process to manufacture the raw silicon or set standards for how that is done. They are able to focus on what their customer really needs by building on what others have done before.

There is the "chicken and egg" challenge -- there aren't many intelligent vehicles today. There are only trials going on in DSRC, but no deployment. There are standards out there, but are they harmonized and are they the best fit for the problem statement? Transportation systems represent a massive pre-existing infrastructure, but rolling out the roadside components will be very expensive with few users. Who pays? Will the benefits be worth the costs of implementation? These are all questions that must be answered in order to move forward on this -- but a critical element is that the technology needs to be developed, improved, and manufactured to be cost-effective. There's a great opportunity for the engineer to be a lead driver in this fast-moving technology race.

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