Vodafone takes another STEP towards greater road safety with platform upgrade

Vodafone recently demonstrated new technology that will make driving vehicles in a convoy much safer, even if they’re driverless ones.

A new feature added to its pan-European vehicle safety platform, called Safer Transport for Europe Platform (STEP), will enable vehicles to be driven remotely while also supporting cooperative platooning over cellular communications.  Cooperative platooning is the ability to regulate the space and speed between vehicles to reduce collusions and traffic jams, as well as save fuel. Previously it was only considered possible using direct communications due to the need for ultra-low latency.

Developed in Dresden

The combination of remote vehicle control with cooperative platooning via STEP was developed at the Vodafone’s Tech Innovation Center in Dresden, and recently successfully tested at the renowned research, development, and validation track in Aldenhoven. See it in action in this video:

STEP is Vodafone’s cloud-based platform for connecting road users, vehicles, and transport authorities directly to each other via third party apps and in-vehicle navigation systems. The platform takes advantage of Vodafone’s extensive 5G network with multi-access edge computing (MEC) technology to relay safety information, hazard warnings and traffic updates, quickly and securely between users and vehicles. It is already being used for several applications in Germany, Spain, and the UK.

Cooperative platooning with driverless cars

5G and MEC are ideal driving companions. The fast speed of 5G, combined with the highly responsive nature of MEC, brings the computing power closer to the driver thereby reducing any communications delay, which could be catastrophic if travelling at speed or in extreme weather. This is particularly useful for cooperative platooning involving driverless vehicles.

During the test at Aldenhoven, Vodafone’s engineers, working with partners from Dutch firm V-tron and Czechian-based Roboauto, were able to remotely control two cars while maintaining a consistent space and speed between them. Using a precise technology called cooperative adaptive cruise control, they were able to pass on accurate kinematic information from the preceding car to the one behind via STEP through cellular V2X communications. This overcomes the limitation of only relying on-board vehicle sensors.

Driving several cars at once

5G also enables a single operator to remotely connect and take charge of several vehicles at once. This could prove invaluable in an emergency, or it may be used to help provide cover if there is a driver shortage, which is becoming a growing issue in some parts of Europe.

Today’s announcement demonstrates that STEP is ready to support the current challenge of cooperative automated driving.

It also underlines Vodafone’s vision to develop the STEP platform’s safety functionality to include detection warnings for vulnerable road users – for example, a driver of a large vehicle could be alerted to nearby cyclists or pedestrians out of view – as well as fleet management, stolen vehicle tracking and supporting usage-based insurance

Please see links below for further information on STEP and Vodafone’s 5G Mobility Lab at Aldenhoven.

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