Making City-Scale Networks of Connected Vehicles Reality
Last week's Friday Seminar featured João Barros, Associate Professor at the University of Porto and CEO of Veniam talking about how he and his team turned public transit into smart city hot spots for Porto. After early attempts to use cellular technology for connected vehicles, which had major bottlenecks in the networks and was cost prohibitive, Barros explored the possibilities of using wi-fi technology to create a city wide mesh network. This builds upon some of Barros' earlier research that looked into the feasibility and impact of VANETs in urban environments.
The key to Veniam's success on Porto has been the city's fibre-optic backbone to create wifi hotspots around the city, like bus stops. A combination of wifi and the IEEE 802.11p standard for wireless vehicle communication, and deployment in fleets such as many of the city's taxis and Metro de Porto's fleet, made the city wide mesh network possible. It also made it very cheap to offer free wifi on the entire bus fleet, which has pleased passengers.
For the buses, the connectivity can be used for ticketing, navigation, infotainment, and vehicle diagnostics. This has also created a very rich, high definition data set of the fleet's operations which has informed service and route updates.
The mesh network has also been very effective in tracking operations at Porto de Leixões. Early attempts to track vehicles with cellular technology were hindered by the lack of cell towers in the industrial area and interference from shipping containers. The wifi mesh network has made it possible to track port traffic to improve efficiency and safety.
Barros hinted that the next wave of innovation could be in the field of wearables. His group had a project that tracked bus driver comfort and stress to better understand their behavior and how it depends on the built environment.