An estimated 1.35 million fatalities occur as a result of road traffic collisions every year, with more than half of these being vulnerable road users, including pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists.

Over the last decade, the automotive market has witnessed remarkable developments in the vehicle safety domain. Vehicle safety systems have evolved from passive and active safety systems to Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and autonomous vehicles. While ADAS either alert the driver or intervene in order to avoid imminent collisions, SAE Level 4 and Level 5 autonomous vehicles are expected to navigate through urban mixed traffic conditions, thereby achieving safer roads and greater traffic efficiency.

Role of connectivity in the autonomous ecosystem

Connectivity and communication play vital roles in enhancing the safe operation of autonomous vehicles. While radar, lidar and camera sensors aid in accurately perceiving the surrounding environment, global positioning systems (GPS) and connected 3D maps assist autonomous vehicles to auto navigate and reach their destination in the least amount of travel time. Furthermore, connected systems enable Vehicle to Everything (V2X) communication which includes Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V), Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I) and Vehicle to Pedestrian (V2P) communication, all of which complement the inputs provided by perception sensors in an autonomous vehicle.

Cities today are witnessing the significant use of e-scooters, bicycles and other modes of micro-mobility to fulfil last mile connectivity needs. These modes are expected to proliferate, while continuing to share transport infrastructure not just with pedestrians but with vehicles operating at different levels of automation as well. This will increase the complexity of urban traffic networks, posing a colossal challenge to the safety of vulnerable road users.

Evolution of V2X communication

V2X communication has evolved over a period of time from WLAN to cellular technology. WLAN uses radio technology and supports direct communication between V2X, called Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC). DSRC is particularly well-suited for V2X communication as it is independent of any network and can function in remote or less developed areas while offering communication with low latency.

More recent V2X communication is based on cellular technology called cellular V2X (cV2X) that supports both direct communication between V2X as well as traditional cellular network-based communication. cV2X supports the migration path to 5G technology which is the future of the connected ecosystem. cV2X is built on a PC5 interface which enables integration with vehicle networks, local traffic networks, and with connected devices such as smartphones and smart wearables. This makes it an ideal solution for V2P and Vulnerable Road User (VRU) communications.

V2P communication solutions critical for increasingly complex, multimodal traffic environments

Many Tier1 suppliers and connected technology companies like Terranet, Savari and ZF are offering V2P and VRU communications solutions through applications built for vehicle infotainment systems, mobile phones, and smart wearables. Terranet for example provides a VRU app that uses RF based positioning, LTE and 5G cellular reflexions and DSRC as opposed to satellite based signals to provide real-time localisation, navigation and collision warnings between vehicles and VRU’s, including pedestrians, cyclists, and scooter riders, via smartphones. They use a proprietary triangulation methodology using the cellular base transmitter and receiver base station as the nodes to locate devices and provide relvant alerts to circumnavigate potential collisions. ZF offers an X2Safe intelligent algorithm which is a cloud-based solution that can communicate with VRU’s through their smart phones, smart watches and with vehicles to warn drivers, pedestrians and cyclists of potential collisions and can initiate autonomous or semi-autonomous manoeuvres.

Meeting the target of “Vision Zero” fatalities

To achieve the global objective of “Vision Zero” fatalities in road traffic collisions, it is important to increase VRU safety in complex, multimodal urban traffic conditions. V2P communications solutions will complement vehicle perception sensors and play a significant role in detecting and communicating information about potential hazards to pedestrians and vulnerable road users, thereby mitigating the danger of imminent collisions. The more vehicles, devices and road users that can be connected to the interactive safety network, the more effectively collisions can be prevented.

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