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Industry standards: Paving the way for autonomous vehicles

The car industry needs to agree open standards to allow connected cars and autonomous vehicles to communicate. The bIoTope project is one initiative that could lead the way to agreement

The automotive industry is changing. There are already electric, connected and autonomous vehicles on the road, a trend that shows no sign of slowing down. Indeed, one report estimates that there will be 76 million autonomous vehicles on the road by 2035 and another suggests that 8% of all vehicles sold by 2020 will be electric.

These vehicles now contain a whole host of sophisticated information systems that use sensors and machine learning. They need to communicate and interact with each other as well as their surrounding environment. We must ensure their interoperability if they are to remain safe, effective and smart.

These systems contain data about the vehicle’s operation, its surrounding environment and its occupants that can be used to reduce costs, improve safety and make journeys more efficient. To give just one example, data from a car can help with predictive maintenance, reducing unnecessary check-ups and saving the driver time and money.

For this to work, the on-board systems must be able to share information with a range of external systems for tasks such as emergency response, traffic management or fuel supply. This communication could vastly change the way our roads and infrastructure look today, rendering traffic lights and road signals redundant.

The external systems will be operated by various organisations – from local authorities to government agencies and automotive manufacturers. Industry standards will be vital to ensure all these systems’ technology can communicate effectively.

Manufacturers have been developing intelligent devices for a long time now, so there are already numerous standards for communication between intelligent devices. However, they were not necessarily designed for the internet of things (IoT) as we understand it today.

It will be impossible to create a new smart road infrastructure if automotive manufacturers do not use the same protocols for communication between smart vehicles. For their systems to exchange information effectively, there must be best-practice standards in place. We need consensus on what these standards should be.

What’s next?

The bIoTope project is one initiative looking to help in this area. It aims to establish a marketplace for services provided by intelligent systems that can communicate with each other using open standards. This includes autonomous and connected cars. There are standards that already enable the exchange of data in situations like this, including The Open Group O-DF and O-MI standards. In brief, O-MI is similar to HTTP as it is a format for exchanging information and O-DF is similar to HTML as it is a way of encoding and describing information.

The bIoTope project is providing concrete proofs-of-concept of IoT interoperability scenarios in smart city environments in Helsinki, Brussels and Lyon. It is using the abovementioned standards to ensure that technologies enable the publication, consumption and composition of information sources and services from across multiple systems.

This is set to have a significant impact on the automotive industry. A connected car would be able to find the quickest route or locate a free parking space at the touch of a button – all thanks to the exchange of information between a range of smart devices in a city environment.

As car manufacturers make progress on autonomous, electric and connected vehicle technologies, standards will play an increasingly important role. The industry needs consensus on standards and best practices to ensure effective interoperability if intelligent vehicles are to reach their full potential.

Chris Harding is director for interoperability and Andrew Josey is vice-president, standards & certification at The Open Group ............................................................................................................................

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