The car of the future

Smart driving and policy making

Smart driving and policy making

Facilitation of progress towards automated cars has become a political priority for the current European Commission. The new technology will be beneficial for consumers as well as for businesses. For the telecom sector, digitalization of the automotive industry creates new business opportunities. However, these will also require major investments in connectivity.

As a matter of fact, with millions of cars on the road, a shift to connected cars and automated driving will bring major disruptions in the way networks are designed and planned. In particular, the challenge for infrastructure providers will be to support the gradual ramping up of requirements and constraints by mobilizing funding, synchronizing investments with advances in autonomous driving and optimizing their approach to network operations,

The Telecom Automotive dialogue

Because automated cars will be so important for the economy, in February 2016, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the telecoms and automotive industry associations agreed, under the guidance of Günther Oettinger, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, to contribute to a new cross-sector communication platform and to cooperate in the following areas:

  • Connectivity: Automated driving will require upgraded communication systemsthat provide higher performance levels in terms of latency, throughput and reliability. Europe needs to support private investment by operators to foster the deployment of the necessary fixed and mobile infrastructure by, for example, ensuring a technology-neutral regulatory framework or through public funding - where investment is not feasible on a commercial basis.
  • Standardisation: Standardisation is crucial for the timely and cost-efficient market development of connected and automated driving. To that end, the two industries have agreed to map all relevant standardisation activities - undertaken by either by the auto industry or telecom industries - and to determine priorities together.
  • Security: It is critical to ensure that all data transmission and processing is secure. Both sectors are already involved in industry-led initiatives in this field, but have now agreed to use this dialogue to strengthen their cooperation.

Additional policy points for automotive connectivity

As noted, automated car requires high-quality networks, which will come at a cost. Therefore the path to high and full autonomous driving runs not only via technology, but will also require amendments to various national and international legislation on a wide range of topics. These include: harmonisation of traffic rules and adjustments to legislation on insurance, liability and defects. In this context, the evolution of international law such as the 1968 Vienna Convention on international road traffic - which was the focus of an announcement by UNECE in late March 2016 – is a meaningful step.

Autonomous driving, in order to function, requires vehicles to seamlessly communicate with their environment. Therefore, reliable connectivity and high performance infrastructure are crucial. On the network side, deployment of more infrastructure, able to cater for new, more demanding services, will only happen in an economic context that promotes operator investment capabilities in the EU - and rewards the risks in doing so. For instance, US industry invests twice as much per inhabitant in mobile networks compared to Europe. Thus a revision of the telecom regulatory framework to better reward investment in connectivity - both fixed and mobile - is of the utmost importance and should be accompanied by a real simplification of the current set of rules and incentives to invest.

Moreover, connected cars will rely on information about location, speed and directions, allowing powerful servers to analyse traffic flow, predict bottlenecks, and manage congestion when traffic jams occur. These developments are will positively impact the mobility sector. Safety, however, remains the number one priority and this particularly requires reliable connectivity.

For this, it is important that operators maintain the ability to manage traffic on their networks. The current regulation on specialised services in the Telecoms Single Market Regulations has to be applied in a way that allows networks to deliver reliability, low latency and to set up services quickly and adjust them in response to the safety demands of automated and connected cars.  New technologies - software defined networks, network function virtualization or ‘network slicing’ - will need to be deployed with regulatory certainty. Reliability depends as well on usable spectrum resources. This need is especially valid in view of the exponentially growing data that will be even more augmented by gigabits of data generated by moving cars. Currently, there are limited bands of available spectrum and there is uncertainty on future access to spectrum and capacity in various bands - sub-1 GHz, 6 GHz, and above 24 GHz – all of which will be required to fully serve 5G purposes. The EU should ensure that more harmonised and affordable spectrum is available. Moreover, as automated cars will be crossing borders, spectrum policy should be consistent across the whole EU to support the delivery of ultra-reliable signals with low latency.

Smart driving is an international market

The list of policy requirements is not exhaustive. In particular, international cooperation will be at the heart of the success of autonomous driving, in order to reconcile new systems being developed on almost every continent. Under these considerations, the achievement of a European single market will certainly help to achieve the critical size for  European standards and European technologies to be recognized at a global scale.

In this approach, telecom operators are fully involved and engaged in the various streams of dialogues with stakeholders, political and business.

In particular, Orange will maintain its commitment to cooperate and continue discussions with the automotive sector and with other potentially interested businesses in order to correctly identify and serve their requirements. The ultimate goal would be to align the sectoral roadmaps in order to deliver the fully automated car in the nearby future.