Hermann Hänle
5. December 2018 0

Smart dust for smart traffic

“Smart” is one of those buzzwords used to describe the benefits expected from digitalization. The automotive industry stands to profit immensely from being “smart” – in fact, this segment could even be called the autonomous mobility industry. Smart Cars (and what about a brand like Smart Smarts?), Smart Factories, Smart Cities, Smart Parking – smartness can be seen making its mark everywhere in the world of automobiles.

Cars with distributed intelligence

In recent years cars have been increasingly equipped with the latest intelligent technologies. And in light of the trend toward autonomous driving, even more progress in automotive intelligence is on the horizon. Today automotive intelligence is delivered from devices integrated in cars themselves and from external sources such as cloud infrastructures in the backend. The role of edge computing and high-performance networks in supporting effective intelligence was described in my earlier remarks.
When it comes to digitalization, people should think outside of the box and look far ahead to the future. Technology and solutions which are not physically embedded in motor vehicles will be key to the development of future services and overall mobility: Intermodal solutions, smart traffic – and taking things to the next level – even smart cities are ideas that can only be realized through the orchestration of harmonized components. New services for future business models must not be limited to motor vehicles alone – they must also deliver benefits through integration in other life experiences as well.

Mobility is more than just intelligent cars

It is quite obvious that intelligent cars alone will not be able to fulfill the vision of mobility in the future. Car2X is one of the approaches that sees smart cars (among other things) as inherent components of smart cities. Pilot projects with intelligent traffic signs, guidance systems and traffic lights are examples of the initial steps being taken in this direction. More technology, more systems.
Infrastructures that have already been planned for automotive mobility as we know it could also play a role in realizing smart traffic. Why shouldn’t we focus some attention on smart streets and roads?

Ideas for smart streets

The British National Infrastructure Commission hosted a competition to gather ideas and proposals such as dynamic road shoulders (which, depending on the time of day, could be used for bicycles, loading areas, etc.), energy-generating sidewalks (pedestrians’ steps would produce electricity) and street sensors.
Sensors in the street? That reminds me of Smart Dust: Full-scale miniature computers measuring just one cubic millimeter – about the size of a sugar crystal! These minicomputers already have the power of a 386 computer. Theoretically you could play the first version of Doom on them – but that would probably not make traffic safer! These smart particles have everything needed to build smart streets and roads: Storage, ample computing capacity, sensors (including cameras) and wireless communication with the backed. Energy supply? Energy could come from integrated solar cells or the technology mentioned above for converting kinetic energy into electrical energy – for example, when the wheels of a vehicle roll over the pavement surface.
Smart asphalt for smart streets – that could be the next step for IoT. And a very interesting component for the smart city. We are living in smart times … and it’s really great!

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