Telecommunications network operator Vodafone has announced a data platform for networking traffic-relevant information exchange, which will initially be activated for the German road network. The platform is intended to improve road safety through the manufacturer-independent and automatic relaying of traffic data in real time.
The open-supplier system for the road traffic of the future is called STEP (Safer Transport for Europe Platform). It is aimed at authorities and companies that transmit safety and traffic data directly to map apps on smartphones in vehicles or to navigation systems permanently installed in vehicles. In the future, STEP could also be used to analyse road use based on anonymised and aggregated position data to enable data exchange of vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians with the transport infrastructure.
The technical basis for the communication processes are V2X systems, the direct networking of direct road users. The resulting data streams are transported in real time via the 5G network. The drivers of commercial vehicles and buses will benefit in particular: according to one of Vodafone’s application scenarios, they could in future be automatically alerted to vulnerable road users such as pedestrians or cyclists via V2X data exchange mechanisms – even if they are in or approaching a blind spot around the vehicle. In combination with other sensors such as cameras, radar and lidar sensors, this service could also support the automated driving of trucks in convoys on motorways (platooning).
“Improving road safety is a major challenge,” explains Michael Reinartz, Head of Innovation at Vodafone Germany. “Open platforms for faster and more efficient data exchange can make an important contribution to preventing deaths and injuries. STEP enables the provision of important safety information for all road users and promotes the necessary collaboration between transport authorities, app developers and the automotive industry to make roads safer.”
The V2X platform enables vehicle manufacturers, mobility service providers, transport authorities and other mobile network operators to transmit important traffic information, such as current traffic incidents, speed limits or lane and road closures. The data is independent of the user’s app or system – it is made available to everyone indiscriminately.
On a test track in Aldenhoven near Aachen as well as in Vodafone’s future innovation centre in Dresden, the company plans to work together with the automotive industry on further traffic-relevant real-time applications in 5G and 6G in the future. STEP is a cloud-based platform built on open industry standards. It uses the open Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT) network protocol for machine-to-machine (M2M) communication. For the exchange of security-sensitive information, the provider uses the Vodafone V2X Message Broker on a separate multi-access edge computing platform. Only a simple registration is required to use it. For developers and providers of third-party apps, Vodafone provides an interface specification (API) and software development kits (SDKs) for Android and iOS.