Smarter Infrastructure Is the Key to Safer, Smoother Mobility
April 04, 2023
An internet search of “highway pileup” returns multiple articles of deadly accidents, many of which report reduced visibility due to weather conditions as the leading cause. What if the lack of visibility could be overcome by the highway itself communicating this incident to all cars approaching the accident area?
Smart infrastructure can make mobility better and safer – helping us get to our destinations faster with adaptive traffic lights, hassle-free travel in and out of crowded parking lots after events, and reducing accident risks as nearby collisions are immediately communicated to vehicles.
What is V2I?
Vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) is a communication model that allows vehicles to share information with the components that support a country's highway system – such as traffic lights, lane markers, streetlights, signage, overhead RFID readers, cameras, and parking meters. Nearly any object, from buildings to light posts to residential neighborhoods, can be equipped with this capability.
Examples of the current state of infrastructure-to-vehicle communication include:
- Municipalities using intersection cameras and radar systems to control traffic lights manually
- Municipalities using traffic cameras to notify central command about traffic flow and then in turn update digital signage to reflect slowdowns or stoppages ahead
- Users utilizing navigation and map applications
But as the technology matures, we may see improvements to mobility such as:
- Smart parking lots where infrastructure can serve as an intelligent operator, handling ticketing and payments while also helping owners locate their vehicles in large parking garages
- On-demand traffic signal priority to reduce traffic jams or automatically detect and help clear the way for an ambulance
- Real-time accident reports or Local Hazard Information (LHI) to notify drivers in advance of dangerous road conditions or pileups ahead of a curve
Many automakers and cities have already begun implementing V2I in the real world with great results. Yet there is still much more that can be done to improve capabilities and accelerate global adoption.
Two Different Approaches and Opportunities
Today, there are two primary types of V2I implementation - Dedicated Short-Range Communication (DSRC) and Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X).
DSRC allows nearby vehicles, RSUs (Roadside Units), and pedestrians to quickly and reliably share information with each other. It is based on Wi-Fi and uses standard IEEE 802.11p, which primarily focuses on safety-critical applications.
This technology is proven and validated today but will require that vehicles be equipped with an On-Board Unit (OBU) and that infrastructure be upgraded with RSU installations. That said, once investments have been made, this system can often operate at a lower cost than a pure cellular-based approach.
C-V2X takes a similar approach but involves cellular connectivity as an intermediary. Vehicles will be able to communicate with transportation infrastructure, other vehicles, the cloud, cellular network infrastructure, and pedestrians, with computing handled by a user’s phone instead of an OBU.
While many vehicles today come with cellular connectivity, infrastructure investment is still needed to enable data processing from an increased range. Greater adoption of 5G will likely cause support the growth of C-V2X, but the probable higher cost (due to network usage) is a potential downside.
V2I RSU Requirements Are Evolving
Typical V2I RSU features currently include:
- Low latency to deliver critical information on time
- High reliability to deliver critical information without errors
- Cybersecurity to avoid compromising road safety and user information
- Control system capability to perform local operations
- LTE/5G for network connectivity
- Interface with a wide range of sensors like cameras, LiDAR, radar, etc.
- AI/ML inference capability to optimize traffic, recognize vehicles, etc.
V2I RSU requirements are constantly changing based on a given use case. To address these requirements, you need a hardware platform that is adaptable enough to implement current needs but also capable of addressing tomorrow’s needs.
AMD Adaptive Computing platforms are heterogenous hardware platforms that are made up of application processors, real-time processors, video encryption and decryption, AI/ML inference (Deep Learning Processing Unit), security features, and programmable logic that can be used to implement almost any type of sensor. Adaptive Computing platforms ccan process the large amounts of data generated by these systems and feed V2I communications with real-time updates.
Advancements in Programmable Logic
Most people are aware of the importance of semiconductors as the COVID-caused chip shortages disrupted supply chains in several industries, including from electronics and vehicle production. Smart cities will also rely on these chips for processing power, but we’re well past the one-size-fits-all approach.
Customized solutions like Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) are growing in popularity. Their flexibility makes them suitable for the changing needs of smart cities because, unlike pre-made chips, they can be reconfigured multiple times. Engineers can adjust the I/O path and memory to suit the needs of a particular device, be it a traffic light, accident detection sensor, or parking structure – helping make each device faster and more energy efficient.
This adaptability also allows for the chips to be reused, which can save the city money versus pre-programmed solutions which only serve one dedicated purpose.
A New Era of Mobility
With the many advancements in tech-enabled transportation, it shouldn’t be a surprise that governments worldwide are investing in smart infrastructure. Intelligent mobility will be an important factor in enabling these smart cities due to the increase in safety, reduction in traffic, and connectivity.
Achieving the full potential won’t happen without concerted effort and investment. Governments should embed RSUs and other sensors into roadway infrastructure, as is already being seen in FasTrak lanes in the Bay Area or smart traffic lights for EMTs and firefighters.
These smart devices can provide the ability to monitor traffic patterns like never before. For the first time, we can have a 30,000-foot view of cities in their entirety, allowing us to identify and fix dangerous intersections and revamp older, existing infrastructure and public transportation in ways that better serve current residents.