By far the most ambitious smart-road project is to begin next year in Europe. It’s called the Cooperative ITS Corridor, and on day one it’s supposed to shepherd cars from Rotterdam through Munich, Frankfurt, and on to Vienna without a single interruption in the initial, basic service: warning drivers of upcoming roadwork and other obstacles. And because the Corridor will be the first to harmonize smart-road standards among different countries, its choices are meant to be a template for us all.
Tass answers such questions on its test bed, an 8-kilometer stretch of road in Helmond that is studded with sensors far more capable than the Corridor will have. “We measure the exact position of vehicles within 1-meter accuracy, 10 times per second, then compare this ground truth with the actual system being tested,” Van Vugt says. “There are cameras every 100 meters and Wi-Fi antennas every 500 meters—about twice as dense as what you’d have on a normal motorway. And we put Wi-Fi stations about on the same poles as the antennas and camera systems.”
Callout to security
For engineers, though, there’s only one real problem: how to safeguard communications. Today’s cars are dripping with communications channels, each of which offers a way into critical systems like engine controls, antilock brakes, and even the actuators that lock the doors and lower the windows. That’s a lot of targets, and smart roads threaten to hook them together and make them vulnerable to attackers, just as the Internet has done with the world’s desktop computers.
This is the state of things. The future comes slowly. The slow progress is attributed it difficulties negotiating between countries (within Europe) and probably also funding issues.
We can say all we want that the problem is (technically) solved, but in practice there are going to huge unexpected (to me) problems. So [after we’ve figured out the technical details], are we content to let the future happen without us?