Transport systems only become truly intelligent once they are able to communicate with each other in real time. Through the CONVERGE project, Ericsson and its partners are enabling cooperative intelligent transport systems.

Ever-increasing road traffic – and the related deaths of about 1.24 million people each year – poses one of the world’s biggest transport challenges. Over the years, road traffic authorities, mobile network operators, automotive manufacturers, navigation system providers and ICT vendors have all tried to address this challenge with a wide variety of solutions. Many of these solutions seek to address the problem by enabling vehicles to share data with each other, transport infrastructure operators and service providers. What has been missing, however, is a framework that enables the various proprietary solutions to work together. Developing such a framework has been the aim of the CONVERGE research project, which presented its achievements in Frankfurt in June.

Although the project is funded by the German Ministries of Education & Research and Economics & Energy, the ambition is that the framework could be used on an EU-level – and perhaps even more widely. As such, in addition to German manufacturers such as Opel, BMW, Volkswagen and Bosch, the project’s participants include Ericsson and Vodafone (see the project website for a complete list).

Jenny Könberg, Head of Intelligent Transport Systems at Ericsson, says: “Through the CONVERGE project, providers of intelligent transport systems, network access and ICT services are working with road traffic authorities, automotive manufacturers and their suppliers. The goal is to create a common architecture that – much like the internet – enables all sorts of service providers and end users to participate in a very simple and convenient way. Unlike the open internet, however, the CONVERGE architecture will – for safety and privacy reasons – limit service providers to providing only approved services and accessing only the data required to do so.”

Ericsson and its partners have developed a novel solution inspired by the principles of the internet – but with the added security usually associated with telecom. Using Geo-Messaging functionality enabled by Ericsson, all available communications channels – including mobile networks, Wi-Fi and digital signage – are used to exchange information between vehicles and traffic managers in real time.

“Ericsson and its CONVERGE partners are providing a framework whereby cooperative intelligent transport systems can communicate securely with each other – in much the same way as people use mobile networks to communicate with each other,” Könberg says. “Connecting the various service providers’ cloud systems will ensure that vital information is available as it is needed.”

In terms of governance, authentication of trusted service providers, secure communication mechanisms and data privacy, the CONVERGE architecture goes well beyond internet standards and builds on the telecom industry’s best practices. As is the case with other critical infrastructure, protection against cyber-attacks, privacy of end-user data and resilience against systems failure are priorities.

In Frankfurt, two CONVERGE use cases were demonstrated: a means of alerting drivers when a vehicle is traveling the wrong way; and a means of booking parking spaces for trucks while accounting for changing traffic conditions.

Currently in Germany, it takes up to five minutes after spotting a vehicle traveling in the wrong direction to broadcast a warning to all drivers via their car radios. This approach is both too slow and too indiscriminate. With the CONVERGE architecture it is possible to support applications that can not only identify vehicles traveling in the wrong direction but also transmit warnings to all vehicles in the vicinity within seconds.

The second use case demonstrated in Frankfurt was dynamic booking of parking spaces for trucks. EU regulations define maximum daily and fortnightly driving times, as well as daily and weekly minimum rest periods for truck and bus drivers. Since the secure parking lots used by truck drivers when resting are often overcrowded, it is necessary to book parking spaces in advance. Changing traffic conditions can make this problematic, however, as it is difficult to predict when a truck will arrive at a given location. Using the CONVERGE architecture, service providers can offer truck operators a flexible booking system that accounts for variable traffic.

Additional findings and use cases from the CONVERGE project will be presented in Berlin in October. For more information about Ericsson’s transport offerings, read the press backgrounder and join us at ITS World Congress in Bordeaux, France, from October 5 to 9.