This year marks the 125th anniversary of Carl Benz' invention of the Patent-Motorwagen Nummer 1, widely regarded as the first automobile.
Since then the automotive industry has been driving an economic and technological revolution throughout the world. Today, perhaps more than ever, modern life is once again challenging the status-quo of transportation. A growing portion of us is residing in urban areas where traffic congestion, air and noise pollution, safety and environmental concerns are impacting our quality of living. Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) are holding the key to optimizing our new mobility lifestyles.
Here is a brief summary of the most vital areas where ITS and innovative technologies have the power to improve mobility and transportation systems in the years ahead:
Ecology and environmental impact
Imagine the safety and convenience provided by infrastructure systems that provide real-time weather and road conditions, automatically alerting drivers of hazards such as snow, ice, accidents, traffic jams and animals on the roads, among other hazards. The on-board systems would instantly (and, in some cases, well ahead of time) suggest alternative routes or adaptive driving strategies, for instance lowering the speed or switching to all-wheel drive to prevent accidents. If an accident occurs, the in-vehicle system will contact the nearest emergency services station, providing essential data such as location of the vehicle, severity of impact, vehicle identification and registered owner. Vehicle-to-vehicle communication using ad-hoc networks will alert following drivers if cars in front of them suddenly brake or if vehicles in adjacent lanes are about to depart their lane.
Economy, passenger and freight logistics
Fleet management systems provide truck drivers with real-time route updates and driving instructions to save time and optimize fuel economy. Smart trucks can call ahead to the destination to schedule loading and unloading appointments as well as maintenance and repair to avoid costly fleet downtime.
Navigation and Location-Based Services (LBS)
Carpooling and car-sharing, which are already commonplace in many metropolitan areas, are gaining unprecedented efficiency and convenience through "just-in-time" routing and availability information. A simple check with a smartphone will list all carpools with a similar route and/or destination or show available vehicles at a car-sharing service points nearby.
Road-safety and traffic management
Energy and traffic management go hand-in-hand for electric vehicles (EV) and their support infrastructure. The type of the road and road conditions have significant impact on an EV's range. The availability of charging bays or service stations to exchange batteries, as well as “fueling” time, determine ease-of-use and convenience of EVs. Smart Grids will have to balance the load and meet the demand for electricity generated by EVs.
Content and service delivery
Content and services delivered via wireless networks or satellite to vehicles will keep passengers entertained and drivers updated with essential information. The well known but always mostly outdated traffic report on the radio may soon be a relic of the past and be replaced with precise and up-to-date traffic information with augmented reality from surveillance cameras.
Tying it All Together:
When you tie it all together, it becomes clear that the challenge to make this vision a reality is interoperability. Open, extensible and backwards-compatible standards are crucial for success. Open platforms and protocols greatly ease integration and enable communication between different makes and generations of vehicles, as well as with potentially different infrastructure systems across international borders. Newer cars will still need to be able to process and send information to previous generation car models and infrastructure systems that have not yet been updated and vice-versa.
I believe Linux and open-source are in a pole position to meet the challenges in many ways:
Infrastructure for ITS relies on intelligent sensor networks that can be deployed alongside roadways to collect and trasmit data. These sensors must be able to operate 24/7 under harsh environmental conditions potentially powered by batteries and solar energy where connection to the power grid is not feasible. Cost is of importance because of the large scale of deployment. Linux provides the ideal foundation due to its broad support for different CPU hardware, networking capabilities, robustness, lifecycle and power management. Since it is open- ource, there are also no royalties attached which could make large-scale deployments prohibitive.
Graphics and hardware
In-vehicle systems have very similar requirements to those of the intelligent sensor networks. Robustness, cost, power-efficiency are key and in addition to that Human Machine Interfaces (HMI) are of importance to allow drivers and passengers to interact with the systems. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) require rendition of 2D and 3D visual content and Augmented Reality Systems will overlay real-time images, either from on-board cameras or provided by cameras installed at roadways, with computer-generated graphics. Linux readily provides drivers for a large variety of graphics hardware including support for hardware acceleration and the number is continuously growing. Multi-point input and gestures for touch-screens and automotive-specific input methods such as scroll-wheels and steering wheel buttons are also available or can easily be integrated.
Open platforms and standards
Open source, and Linux as its poster-child, have a 20-year proven track record of creating successful and long-term sustainable open platforms. The many workgroups hosted by The Linux Foundation demonstrate how open governance creates best practices for defining open standards. Only open platforms and standards provide the necessary interoperability required to design ADAS to order, combining a variety of services from real-time traffic information to roadside sensor data to GPS route guidance to LBS applications and much more.
Public and private sector adoption
Governments, companies and individuals will all be making investments on different levels. The public will be investing huge sums in ITS and roadside sensor networks for public safety and quality of life. Companies will be spending large amounts of money on R&D to develop technology, devices and infrastructure. Individuals will ultimately be purchasing the comfort and convenience that ADAS and In-vehicle Infotainment (IVI) with their vehicles. Every stakeholder will be looking for a protection of their investment. Infrastructure investments will potentially have a 15- to 20-year ROI period. Technology investments as long as 5 to 10 years. And car buyers are looking to enjoy their vehicles for many years to come. Only open platforms and standards created and maintained through open governance will be able to give the stakeholders the sense of long-term security and protection of their investments.
A note on security...
It would be remiss not to mention security here: As we have learned from more than 20 years of experience with the Internet, with connectivity comes comfort and convenience but also risk. It is obvious that a large network generating and processing data for transportation and traffic management also creates an opportunity for malicious activity. Protection and verification of data transmitted and provided to vehicle drivers who will ultimately rely on it for making decisions on how to operate their vehicles has highest priority. What is intended to make our commutes on the roads safer and more enjoyable must not put us in jeopardy through intentional wrongdoings or unintentional mistakes. But once again, open platforms and open standards have proven to be in a good position in relation to security.
Machine-to-Machine technologies, vehicle telematics, ad-hoc networks, ADAS and ITS will be driving the next revolution of human mobility on land, far extending the capabilities of our current cars, trucks and buses. In my opinion, Linux and open-source are holding the key to success. I am looking forward to it and being a part of it.
Join me to explore this in more detail at the upcoming Automotive Linux Summit on November 28, 2011 in Japan.