Making ITS connections requires leadership

From making the commute more bearable to saving the planet, Jim Alfred of BlackBerry Certicom believes that ITS has the capacity to drive a range of transformational opportunities – but leadership is required, he warns
Networking & Communication Systems / January 23, 2020 4 mins Read
By Jim Alfred
ITS can have global benefits, from reducing infrastructure spending to managing climate change © Bluebay2014 |

The move towards ITS is becoming a global phenomenon. New computing, sensor and communications technology pave the way for smart roadways, and cooperative and autonomous driving technologies. Forward-looking governments harness this technology to shape the future, providing economic, environmental and social benefits for their citizens.   

Potential benefits

We know that ITS has the potential to deliver numerous benefits to the transportation industry, the environment, consumers and governments. Specifically, ITS drives large-scale economic benefits through transportation efficiency. Sharing real-time vehicle and infrastructure data reduces traffic congestion and delays, which increases business productivity and enables just-in-time manufacturing. Saving fuel means a lower demand for imported fuel, which helps reduce trade deficits, while commuters will experience improvements, which increases employee productivity with the potential for better work/life balance.

Data provides visibility that can help optimise infrastructure spending, and lower operational and maintenance costs for infrastructure can reduce long-term tax burdens. Data also provides trends to help shape transportation and urban planning policies. By identifying where to expand and where to shed excess capacity, it can help areas such as urban planning - prioritising spending, for instance which roads or bridges need repair now and which can wait. There’s now a way to enable safe increases in speed limits that can boost traffic capacity with little cost.

ITS helps protect the environment from climate change: reduced traffic congestion can dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions – a study in Japan suggests ITS can reduce CO2 emissions by 40% for cities with high traffic congestion. Security mechanisms can help local governments enforce road management policies, while ITS can improve road safety and save lives with new collision avoidance technology: analysis published in the January 2017 Federal Register (Vol. 82) indicates that, over the next 30 years, new collision avoidance technology might prevent some 500,000 US vehicle crashes.  

Real challenges

The automotive industry and its ecosystem of silicon and software suppliers has made great progress in developing and proving out the technical aspects of ITS through long-term government-supported investment.

One of the key enabling technologies for ITS comes from the communications between cars and the roadside infrastructure. Vehicle to Everything (V2X) communications helps enable vehicles to drive cooperatively, avoid collisions and share data with city traffic management systems about traffic and road conditions. Core concepts of V2X technology developed in the early 2000s have come into their own through extensive piloting in the past several years. The barriers to adoption are now largely policy- and economics-based rather than technical.   

Different regions (North America, Europe and Asia) will naturally see policy challenges with a unique perspective. For instance, the European Union (EU) has long grappled with the aspect of supporting a wide variety of member states and industry stakeholders while giving each a voice.

For international standards, too many stakeholders can pose a real problem. But to its credit, the EU, working through the Car2Car Consortium and ETSI, has developed a strong, viable standard. To enforce technical and security compliance, EU V2X stakeholders have developed a centralised governance model and technical interlocks for managing duly qualified participants in the European V2X marketplace. The EU’s C-ITS Credential Management System (CCMS) has first established out a central policy for how trusted elements of the system operate. Once operational it will then allow governments, OEMs and service providers an opportunity to deploy any systems that meet its security and interoperability requirements. By bridging trust at the policy level, the EU has eliminated a major barrier for ITS adoption in Europe.  

Kudos to the European V2X community for a job well done. Coordinated action by member states and industry stakeholders will help pull the benefits of ITS forward. This will address growing concerns about the acceleration of climate change, over-reliance on fossil fuels and a strong growth in road traffic densities.    

China, likewise, has embraced the benefits of ITS to transform its roads and highways. It is working to accomplish its objectives by tying V2X to a vision for smart cities enabled by 5G cellular services. The goal is to leapfrog western technologies and bring cellular V2X (C-V2X) based on 5G technology to life. Chinese standards organisations, industry stakeholders and government authorities are driving fast and certain deployment goals. There seems to be little concern about interoperability with western V2X public key infrastructure (PKI) systems, which is easy to understand. China is an enormous market and a national ITS standard delivers a route to domestic ITS technology dominance.

Mandate lacking

The US, which has arguably invested the most in C-ITS, may have the least to show for it. While DSRC-based V2X technology stands potentially at the ready, lack of a coherent government policy and robust coordination between North American governments has led the industry to an uncertain stall. Without a V2X mandate or other incentive, automotive OEMs lack reasons to invest on their own. Unless North America develops stronger leadership, it may see the V2X-enabled ITS opportunity pass by as other industries lobby the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for access to the US ITS safety spectrum.

To overcome the challenges, US and Canadian government and automotive industry leaders must work together to develop a regulatory framework that promotes the benefits of ITS and V2X technology. They must also explore industry incentives that help the market align benefits to cost.   

Lacking a US mandate, why should OEMs spend money to put V2X modules in every car?  Because the safety benefits will not accrue to them in higher vehicle prices or sales margins. Perversely, fewer accidents would mean fewer new car sales, which is not much of an OEM incentive.  And were OEMs not properly incentivised, a likely scenario is that V2X would be seen as an expensive safety option that few consumers would purchase, leading to a lower installed base and a less effective system.   

Coordinated regulation could easily turn this around. For instance, if we assume V2X adoption will improve traffic flows and reduce congestion, then it seems reasonable that vehicles with V2X technology would achieve better fuel economy. Perhaps that’s a good reason to give each vehicle manufactured with a V2X module a credit on the manufacture’s CAFE standard and thus an incentive to sell cars with V2X modules as standard equipment.

And, let’s assume consumers benefit from better fuel efficiency as well as safer roads. Safer roads should lower vehicle owner insurance premiums. This provides justification to require car owners to pay for safety certificates to prove their cars and V2X modules are in good working order. That money could in turn be used to help fund state and local ITS deployments.

Finally, let’s not ignore the ability of V2X modules to support value-added services. For example, they offer a way for cities to monetise services such as freight signal priority for trucks or licence access to special V2X-vehicle-equipped commuter lanes. Learning how to leverage V2X technology is critical for the success of smart city-integrated traffic management initiatives. These benefits could help fund V2X deployments and smart city evolution.

Together, supportive policies and practical applications can help catalyse the North American ITS industry.

BlackBerry’s Security Credential Management System (SCMS)

The SCMS, a large-scale distributed public key infrastructure (PKI) used to secure V2X communications, is an integral part of the V2X system, enabling trust in messages from vehicles, traffic management and other infrastructures. Wireless messaging between cars and infrastructure is secured using digital signatures based on elliptic curve cryptography (ECC). The trust model is based on a certificate scheme invented by BlackBerry Certicom and pledged with patent assurances to the broader community. BlackBerry has built its system to North American specifications and proven multi-root interoperability through industry testing. The company recently launched its WebTrust-audited SCMS service and is offering free V2X-connected vehicle pilots. Unlike Europe, there are no formal governance rules dictating how to operate such a system in the US or Canada. Lacking a government or industry sanctioned governance framework, it has adopted its own PKI policies, adopting many of the practices dictated by the EU’s V2X credential management policy framework. We would encourage the automotive industry to work with us to create a secure, interoperable and sustainable intelligent transportation system.



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