In 2018, ERTICO and 20 other partners officially kicked off an innovative Horizon2020 project aiming to provide an ICT infrastructure to enable the transition towards road transport automation. Under the leadership of ICCS, a consortium of partners from nine European countries started innovating under the ICT4CART project, bringing together, adapting and improving technological advances from different industries, mainly telecom, automotive and IT.
This month, after having demonstrated several use cases in real-life demonstrations in Germany, Austria and Italy, and after many achievements in key areas such as hybrid connectivity, data management, cyber-security, and accurate localisation, the project comes to an end. So, for the last interview of the “Meet ICT4CART” series, we closed the cycle and met once more with ICCS, project coordinator of ICT4CART and the very first interviewee of this series (click here to read the very first interview carried out in 2019).
Read the interview with Vasilis Sourlas, project manager from ICCS. ICCS is responsible for the coordination of ICT4CART project. In this interview, along with Vasilis Sourlas, we have discussed the main achievements (and challenges) of the project and its exciting next steps!
ICT4CART 42 months later: what do you think have been the main achievements of the projects?
The achievements of ICT4CART project are several, but I would like to start by mentioning that our 3.5-year innovation action designed, developed and tested in real traffic conditions a robust ICT architecture to ensure automated vehicles are always securely connected to current and emerging wireless technologies and to ensure as well that they can share information and coordinate with other vehicles and with the broader road transport network.
Even today – while autonomous vehicles have not reached the necessary maturity level and connected vehicles are far from becoming mainstream – there is a wealth of data available to improve road transport. Traffic monitoring and road infrastructure management platforms, car navigation systems, drivers’ mobile phones, millions of urban and motorway cameras, and sensors that detect passing vehicles, all provide valuable data resources. Automated and/or connected vehicles are adding to this information with their own highly accurate onboard sensor, radar and camera systems.
The ICT4CART architecture aimed to ensure autonomous vehicles are always contributing to and extracting important information from existing and emerging data in an intelligent, interoperable and secure way. The project focused on reliability, availability and redundancy between different communication technologies, including widely deployed LTE mobile systems, upcoming 5G and ETSI ITS G5 ad-hoc short-range communications.
ICT4CART tackled several ICT challenges related to connectivity, data management, cyber-security and ICT infrastructure architectures enabling road vehicle automation, by bringing together key players from automotive, telecom and IT industries, to shape the ICT landscape for Connected and Automated Road Transport and to boost the EU competitiveness and innovation in this area. To achieve this objective ICT4CART built on four specific high-value use cases, instead of working on generic solutions with questionable impact.
The main achievement of ICT4CART is the design, implementation and testing of a versatile ICT infrastructure that can enable the transition towards higher levels of automation (up to L4) by working with specific key ICT elements, namely hybrid connectivity, data management, cyber-security, data privacy and accurate localisation.
As project coordinator, what have been the main challenges you faced over the duration of the project and how did you overcome them?
Besides the technical challenges and the risks when developing cutting edge solutions, by far the greatest challenge we faced during the ICT4CART action was the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic occurred right after the end of the lab-based development of the different technologies, exactly when the consortium was ready to deploy the developed technologies in the different real-world test sites to perform large-scale demonstrations open to the public. Therefore, the pandemic had a huge impact on the planned public demonstrations that unfortunately occurred with limited participation only from the consortium partners. However, the actual development and testing of ICT4CART key components occurred as planned, despite small delays due to the lockdowns enforced across Europe. This was a huge success compared to the actual technical achievements that required strong commitment from all ICT4CART partners. Overall, ICT4CART managed to deliver everything that was promised and beyond, with only a 6-month extension to its initial planned duration.
Over the last months, the ICT4CART partners have carried out demonstration activities at the pilot sites in Germany, Austria, Italy and cross-border scenarios. What are the key results from the pilot activities?
The public can find plenty of details regarding the demonstration activities of ICT4CART and its results in the project’s website (https://www.ict4cart.eu/) and in the corresponding videos and public-access deliverables. However, if we want to highlight the main achievements per test site, besides the actual implementation of the ICT4CART architecture, the following are the most significant results:
- In the German test site in Ulm, ICT4CART demonstrated use cases like the intersection crossing, and the use of a virtual mirror to ‘see’ surrounding traffic in urban environments. All of them, thanks to the environment model from the developed infrastructure which makes occluded road users “visible” to the connected automated vehicle, something very critical for the safety and adoption of automated driving in the near future.
- Complementarily, the Italian pilot site worked on several uses cases such as wrong-way detection, VRU detection, lane merging, toll station and queue. With testing carried out both on the highway (Trento A22) and urban environment (City of Verona), the Italian pilot site covered a very broad spectrum of cases to improve Connected and Automated Driving even further. The Italian site demonstrations clearly show how the use and integration of data from different sources can significantly increase the comfort level of an automated or only connected vehicle user together with the safety of the surrounding conventional vehicles and road users.
- Finally, the full hybrid WiFi-based ITS-G5 and LTE/5G coverage on the Italian and Austrian testing sites (and the cross-border area between the two countries) will remain in place even after the end of the project. This brings permanent benefits to the region and sets it up for a future with ground-breaking automated and connected driving services, where any disturbance in the traffic (e.g., an accident or a traffic jam) can quickly and with higher accuracy be communicated to all road users.
What are the main contributions of the ICT4CART projects to the current and future research?
Again, the full details regarding the technical and research contributions of the ICT4CART action are available on the project website and the corresponding deliverables/articles/publications. However, the most significant contribution of the action was the fact that ICT4CART brought together key players from the automotive, telecom and IT industries, to shape the ICT landscape for Connected and Automated Road Transport and to boost the EU competitiveness and innovation in this area. This partnership tackled several ICT challenges related to connectivity, data management, cyber-security and ICT infrastructure architectures.
The project’s hybrid communication solutions were supported by a distributed, interoperable and cloud-based data management IT environment to facilitate seamless and efficient exchange of data, enabling real-time analytics, protecting data privacy and opening up new business models. The flexible network architecture, based on network slicing, allowed for the specialisation and isolation of different types of applications with different performance requirements, allowing services to account for the needs of different users and relevant circumstances, whether to improve the comfort of vehicle occupants, avoid congestion, or to ensure road safety. On top of the communications infrastructure, the IT environment enabled third-party providers such as IT and app developers to offer innovative commercial services and therefore create new business opportunities in the ecosystem.
Overall, ICT4CART was a pioneer of the integration of connectivity in Automated Driving back in 2018 that was prepared, something that is a prerequisite in today’s and future research agenda both in the EU and beyond. Indicatively, the first research and innovation calls tailored from the CCAM partnership in the newly launched Horizon Europe framework prove that the agenda and objectives of ICT4CART are key components of the future research thread in CCAM and smart mobility.
What will be the next steps?
Individually, each partner of the ICT4CART consortium has a clear exploitation plan based on the work performed in the project (the corresponding PU-access deliverable can be found in the project’s website). This varies from future research directions to pure product development or even more important to the adoption of key solutions as part of the road infrastructure of an area, as is the case in the Austrian site. Partially, the consortium continues the work performed in ICT4CART through other research actions like the newly launched 5G-IANA project (https://www.5g-iana.eu/) that aims to provide an open 5G experimentation platform, on top of which third-party experimenters (i.e., SMEs) in the Automotive-related 5G-PPP vertical will have the opportunity to develop, deploy and test their services. Additionally, other initiatives currently under evaluation in the newly Horizon Europe CCAM partnership call that aims to identify and assess all the connectivity and cooperation enablers and needs to allow higher levels of automation and tackle all the different requirements for availability and performance of connectivity are advancing the work in ICT4CART one step further and closer to extensively deployed smart mobility services. The future paths that the work in ICT4CART can take are endless and the consortium has already started exploiting them!