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Contributions by Paul Liu, Director, Connected Services, Hitachi Automotive Systems Americas, and Subrata Kundu, Ph.D., Manager, Research & Development Division, Hitachi America, Ltd.
The emergence of smart cities is creating a highly connected infrastructure that is a perfect enabler for connected autonomous vehicles (CAVs). Driverless cars, trucks and buses can be intrinsically connected to vital information that reduces traffic and makes driving on roads safer. And CAVs will in turn enable smart cities by providing extensive value to the city’s economic, social and sustainability goals.
Cities are moving beyond collecting data in siloed systems to manage traffic flow. They are now using connected networks and cloud technologies to link these data sources to each other, to in-vehicle sensors such as GPSs, and to cloud-based data sources for weather data, street conditions and more. The next step is to combine these connected data sources with sophisticated data analysis and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities for an interconnected system that can power smart decisions on a scale as big - or as targeted - as the city requires.
From London to Louisville, cities around the world are remaking themselves as "smart cities."1 These communities are taking advantage of a huge range of innovations in governance, urban planning, economic and social programs while using technology to create environments that are safer, more sustainable and more efficient. The convergence of connected communities with autonomous transportation promises to deliver significant improvements in safety and convenience as well as new economic opportunities.2
What’s making all of this possible is a set of instrumental technologies that are just now reaching maturity. The internet of things (IoT), AI and machine learning, autonomous driving systems and big data analytics are coming into their own, united by highly connected networks that collect and share data across the city’s infrastructure, in real time.
Smart cities and CAVs are in many ways a match made in heaven - or at least in the cloud. To meet their overarching goal of providing a better quality of life for their citizens, smart cities must address a multitude of issues, including the social requirements of a growing population, economic and environmental sustainability, and public safety. CAVs provide substantial benefits in each of these areas.
Because CAVs interact with many systems, they can improve traffic flow both for the individual vehicle and for traffic throughout the city. Not only can connected vehicles limit congestion on the roads, the new services created by connectivity can make commuters’ lives easier in a variety of ways. For instance, a connected vehicle can use the cloud to find open parking spaces, recommend the best routes, and allow riders to surf the web or take conference calls while commuting. A connected infrastructure also supports ridesharing and robo-taxis, which provide economic and environmental benefits as well as promoting social interaction.
CAVs use AI and real-time cloud-based data to choose the fastest and most fuel-efficient routes. CAVs can also be programmed to follow rules for maximum efficiency all the time - in contrast with human drivers, who tend to overuse the accelerator or brakes, which burns excessive fuel.3 In fact, self-driving cars have the potential to cut energy consumption in transportation by up to 90 percent.4 This is both an economic and an environmental benefit, with fuel consumption resulting in reduced carbon emissions.
Many CAVs are also electronic vehicles (EVs) or hybrids, which can further reduce or eliminate reliance on fossil fuels altogether. And CAV technology makes the most of the EV advantage by using sensors and connectivity to optimize the vehicle’s power usage. Electronic CAVs can even return excess power generated by the car’s motor to the city’s smart grid.
Research shows that CAVs are safer than human-driven vehicles.5 They cause far fewer accidents than driver-operated cars.6 One reason for this is the autonomous driving technology - sensors on the car connect with their surroundings and can adapt to the changing environment to avoid collisions with other cars, pedestrians and other objects. Another reason is that, unlike humans, CAVs don’t get tired or distracted, and don’t freeze in the middle of a judgment call. The vehicle’s decisions are based on the analysis of data from the vehicle sensors and connected data from the cloud - data the human driver might not be able to access. For example, the vehicle’s infrared sensors can “see” a hazard in the dark well before a human can.
It’s no longer sufficient to just “look under the hood” to discover how today’s sophisticated vehicles work. The technology behind CAVs extends far beyond the vehicle itself. Vehicle sensors generate huge amounts of data. This data, together with the connected data from other sources, requires a reliable high-speed computing platform and effective, machine learning-generated algorithms for efficient operation of connected autonomous vehicles.
Hitachi has developed cutting-edge sensing and controller technologies with state-of-the-art, AI-based, cooperative connected control algorithms, as well as the solutions that enable deployment of the AI algorithms, both in the cloud and on edge processing platforms. For example, our high-speed autonomous driving electronic control unit (ECU) enables the processing and analysis of data from multiple sensors in real time for autonomous driving/advanced driver assistance systems (AD/ADAS). And our predictive maintenance solutions aggregate sensor data and use a combination of physics and AI-based models to provide real-time predictions and recommendations for vehicle maintenance.
Technology companies working to provide such ecosystems must not only have extensive investment in research and development, they must have a solid grounding in operational technology (OT) as well as IT. Producing solutions and technologies that meet the very demanding requirements of automotive-grade quality and mass production scale are the biggest challenges facing these companies. Hitachi is one of the few companies in the world with domain expertise across the many facets of smart cities, and we have unparalleled OT and IT experience. We can provide a complete end-to-end digital mobility solution for smart cities and massive infrastructures across many domains.
Smart cities are a shining example of the value of connected technology to empower and improve society at all levels, with connected autonomous vehicles contributing significantly to sustainable transportation. The Hitachi Group companies are working together and with our customers to create smart mobility solutions for a safe, sustainable, and resilient world. Connected autonomous vehicles are an important part of our vision for the future of transportation. The technology is available now and getting better all the time - and it will continue to benefit the environment, communities, and the people who live and work there.
Learn how Hitachi is powering good in the world through autonomous technology: Driving Forward with Future Vehicles