ASFINAG, the Austrian motorway operator, will initiate a next big step towards autonomous driving in 2020. To enable fast and secure communication between infrastructure and modern vehicles in the future, motorways and expressways are to be equipped with a special WLAN system for vehicle communication by 2023.
The system is called C-ITS, which stands for "Co-operative Intelligent Transport Systems". A total of up to 500 WLAN devices will be installed throughout Austria, all of them being able to exchange safety critical traffic information with coming WLAN compatible vehicles.
The decision to rely on this well-established technology does not have an influence on the selection of other complementary technologies in the future, such as 5G cellular communication. "But WLAN technology is both proven and secure," assures ASFINAG Managing Director Bernd Datler. ASFINAG will be able to distribute existing information in such a way that any future technologies can also be part of the C-ITS system. At present, WLAN devices are already in use around Vienna and Graz as well as on ASFINAG mobile warning trailers.
Volkswagen has already announced the series production launch of WLAN based C-ITS communication in one of its upcoming vehicles. These will be the first vehicles capable of receiving, processing and displaying the information transmitted via WLAN. Other vehicle manufacturers are also planning to install WLAN technology in their next vehicle generations, for example to support semi-automatic driving in truck convoys. The information transfer in a C-ITS system is not a one-way street – hence the term “co-operative”. Information will also be sent from the vehicles to ASFINAG in order to provide other road users with even better updates along the route.
The greatest benefit is increased traffic safety
For road users, C-ITS provides numerous advantages. ASFINAG will be able to send information about lane closures, roadworks, speed limits, breakdowns or accidents directly into the vehicle during their trip, to be displayed directly on the dashboard or the on-board computer. Language barriers are also no longer a problem. Information sent by ASFINAG will be directly translated into the language that is set in the vehicle.
But clearly, the biggest advantage of sending safety critical information directly into vehicles in real-time is of course the considerable increase in traffic safety.
Besides ASFINAG, many additional stakeholders in the field of C-ITS support this approach and have published a joint statement on the continued C-ITS deployment in Europe.