Not so long ago, autonomous vehicles (AVs) seemed the realm of sci-fi blockbusters. But tremendous technological progress has changed that. Today, we’re discussing future infrastructure for autonomous cars and the impact AVs are already having on the urban landscape. What will our cities look like when driverless cars become an everyday travel option? Let’s find out.
In this article, you’ll read about:
- The role of infrastructure in the Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index
- Five changes in infrastructure that will take place alongside the rise of autonomous driving
- Intellias’ real-life experience developing solutions for autonomous cars and future infrastructure
Autonomous driving will never take off without the right infrastructure
The concept of a self-driving car is moving beyond automation toward a new kind of digitized vehicle. This shift entails an enhanced manufacturing process, a new kind of supply chain, and infrastructure that’s prepared for autonomous cars. “Prepared” is a word that’s often used in discussions related to autonomous vehicles. The preparedness of consumers, manufacturers, and global infrastructure for autonomous cars will determine when we’ll see them populating the urban streets.
A report by Statista illustrates how eager drivers are to take their hands off the steering wheel. This report shows the percentage of respondents in the US who are ready to use at least partially autonomous vehicles:
The increase in market share for the autonomous car market will determine if manufacturers are ready. According to an autonomous vehicle market overview, the global market for AVs will amount to $54.23 billion in 2019 and $556.67 billion in 2026.
Pillars forming the Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index (AVRI)
The Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index by KPMG claims that the readiness of infrastructure for autonomous cars is one of the four key criteria for determining the most AV-ready country. And if you think that the US is leading the readiness race, think again. The home of Silicon Valley is only in third place, while Singapore is in second place. Sweden is fourth and the UK is fifth. And the winner is (drumroll) the Netherlands.
Infrastructure changes for autonomous vehicles are the most challenging automation project ever launched on the urban fabric
The unstoppable progress of the automotive industry makes autonomous vehicles’ effects on infrastructure more and more apparent. The aligned interests of authorities and independent developers make updates to infrastructure and autonomous vehicles an essential part of the current wave of urban transformation.
Still, experts sometimes find autonomous cars and future infrastructure a promising but speculative combination. And it’s no surprise since the challenges are tough and uncommon. Even so, thanks to the joint efforts of OEMs, Tier 1 vendors, and authorities – supported by consumer acceptance and multi-billion dollar capital infusions – the driverless future seems inevitable. So let’s take a look at the infrastructure changes for autonomous vehicles that will be the first to happen.
AV-ready road infrastructure should not be perceived as building castles in the sky
Autonomous vehicles require excellent roads, harmonized regulations, and standards for the construction and renovation of roads. But that’s not enough. On-road telematics, lanes, signage, crash barriers, sidewalks, and curbs need to become smarter or completely change their appearance. Even though it sounds expensive, the following changes will take place when autonomous vehicles become a reality.
- Roadside sensors. When designing roads for the AV generation, city planners should include roadside sensors on lanes, curbs, and sidewalks to allow vehicles to foresee dangerous or unexpected situations far ahead.
- Machine-readable signs. Today’s AVs mostly use an image recognition approach when reading road signs. In the future, machine-readable code will have to be embedded in signs and transmitted or broadcast. These messages will be invisible to humans but detectable by computers.
- Lane markings. Poor road markings are forcing automakers to develop more sophisticated sensors and maps, but they definitely don’t encourage the broader adoption of AVs. Self-driving cars will require machine-readable radar-reflective road markings. These can be manufactured out of cold plastic to make lidar’s job easier at night and in nasty weather.
Common urban forms and boundaries between them might dissolve
Ford predicts that autonomous driving will lead to the removal of stop lights from streets and intersections.
Autonomous cars and future infrastructure will make cities more data-intensive and transform them into actual digital hubs. And these hubs will be better places to live, say researchers. All because infrastructure changes for autonomous vehicles will make cities more human-centered. The wider adoption of AVs can increase highway capacity, improve transport accessibility, and reduce congestion in the most densely populated cities.
In one of the possible scenarios, cities can get to a point where traffic lights are no longer needed. Traffic lights were designed for humans, but now they could be replaced by protocols designed for machines that determine driving priority. By using on-road telematics, autonomous vehicles could communicate with each other and act according to programmed priorities. Cars could also form groups that drive together and share all sorts of information on road conditions, speed, braking, and so on.
On top of that, smart roads with signage, lining, and sensors could provide more descriptive information to vehicles, letting them know when to stop or move and what type of obstacle is in front of them.
Parking facilities will become obsolete
Forget about the stress of finding a parking spot or not having a clue where you’ve parked your car. Autonomous vehicles and smart infrastructure will help cities get rid of nearly all types of parking. Garages, on-street, and off-street parking will move indoors and outside of downtown areas. This will all be thanks to ride sharing and mobility as a service schemes, which are among the top trends in the future of autonomous vehicles.
Self-driving cars are way better at maneuvering and can use narrower driving lanes. This means that the remaining parking spaces will be able to accommodate more cars. And the space currently used for parking can be used in new ways in modern cities. Will parking lots be demolished, freeing up urban space? Or will they be transformed into public spaces, outlets, or museums of the automotive industry? That’s for cities and authorities to decide.
Connectivity will be the new gold as telecoms and other companies will need to expand their networks
Autonomous driving infrastructure – from traffic signs to traffic cones – is all about connectivity. For autonomous vehicles, connectivity means even more than gasoline. Infrastructure changes for autonomous vehicles will pack cities with fiber and sensor networks, IoT devices, facilities for safe public Wi-Fi, and superspeed 5G. Fleets of autonomous vehicles will receive and transmit enormous amounts of data all the time.
On top of that, various devices will occupy the “driver’s” hands instead of a steering wheel, which will naturally produce an extra load on the wireless network. Maintaining such loads is a job for supreme means of connectivity.
The decisive impact of 5G on the automotive industry
Source: CTIA – The race to 5G
Rolling out 5G wireless technology requires extensive infrastructure. Central offices, cell towers, and other types of cell sites plus virtual infrastructure running on commodity servers will be areas of particular interest. Embedding thousands of mini data centers in cell towers and aggregation hubs will allow combining high-powered servers and storage devices with high-speed fiber and software facilities.
Speaking of fiber, a conduit for power lines and fiber-optic cables will have to be placed throughout the new infrastructure. This will help launch future infrastructure changes for autonomous vehicles today.
Potential electric charging of AVs can bring about a revolution in renewable energy production
Whether autonomous vehicles will rely on electrical technology only or if there will still be gasoline-powered AVs remains a hotly debated topic. Even so, worldwide initiatives are promoting a massive shift from fossil fuels to electricity.
By 2050, the likely net increase in electricity demand from converting the light-duty vehicle fleet to 85% electric and autonomous vehicles will be between 13% to 26% of today’s total electricity demand.
What does this mean in terms of autonomous vehicles’ effects on infrastructure? Charging points are one of the most obvious physical changes that will happen if the majority of AVs are electric. Investigators are working on determining where to place the required charging points. Figures predicting the required number are mind-blowing.
According to the National Plug-In Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Analysis, electrifying 15 million electric vehicles (EVs) by 2030 would require nearly 5,000 fast charging and 500,000 slow charging stations. For these reasons, other methods of efficient charging of EVs, like in-motion charging, may become popular.
With adequate state-level support and demand, massive adoption of electric vehicles can actually disrupt the production of renewable energy. In the ideal future, the need for wind and solar energy will provide an increase in manufacturing, installing, and maintaining capacities. And all that will lead to positive economic and ecological results.
Intellias’ contribution to infrastructure changes for autonomous vehicles
One of the leading Tier 2 companies in Eastern Europe, Intellias has 16 years of experience in delivering software solutions for OEMs and Tier 1 companies. This includes solutions that support the development of infrastructure for autonomous cars.
- We delivered the backend and frontend of a smart traffic solution that collects data from car sensors, road cameras, traffic feeds, weather stations, and mobile devices and processes it in vehicles. Then it transfers and aggregates this data in the cloud. Next, it sends the data back to cars, drivers’ smartphones, and regional road operators’ traffic management centers almost instantly.
- We participated in developing and enhancing an IoT-enabled urban mobility platform. Working in close cooperation with our client’s teams, we developed a solution that helped our client occupy a very special niche in the public transportation system.
- We developed the frontend and backend of an IoT-based smart data traffic solution that links vehicles, road infrastructure, and people through a cloud-based location platform with V2V, V2X, and V2I channels.
Although we all hope for the best, the infrastructure required for autonomous cars to function remains a sticking point on the way to widespread adoption of AVs. Autonomous cars and future infrastructure require the exceptional attention and concern of authorities, transportation planners, developers, and lawmakers. All stakeholders must understand how this shift in transportation influences society and how it should be reflected in the form of infrastructure.
Intellias knows the value of data in the automotive industry and the knowledge needed to develop and implement solutions that can lay the ground for infrastructure changes for autonomous vehicles to take place. If you’re looking to develop solutions that will shake up the autonomous infrastructure, contact Intellias.