Towards a system of systems: Networking and communication between vehicles

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09 Dec, 2019

Towards a system of systems: Networking and communication between vehicles

Enabling vehicles to share communicate with other road participants, traffic infrastructure, and the cloud will be essential for autonomous vehicles, and could create safer, more efficient mobility and transportation.

In an ever increasing world of advance consumer technologies, there is now a drive to implement autonomous capabilities into machines used for daily life. The automobile is one such machine, which is increasingly becoming autonomous. Vehicle providers have already built in certain autonomous capabilities, such as Tesla with its advance driver assistance features. 

However, it is important to point out these current automated capabilities, don’t necesssarily imply that the vehicle is fully autonomous. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) have created a standard to define the level of autonomy for an automobile, illustrated by figure 1. According to the SAE level of driving automation standard, level 5 classification is the definition of a fully autonomous vehicle. 

Therefore, a vehicle that is fully autonomous must be able to support driving capabilties in all terrain and wheather conditions, without any support from a human operator. This entails that a fully autonomous vehicle will require the need to support adavnce applications, most of which will utilize artificial intelligence and big data, in order to safely operate in all conditions. Additonlally, advance onboard computers, sensors and communication channels are essential to process and operate these applications in real time.

Figure 01: Society of Automotive Engineers level of driving standard[2]

According to Barclays, applications supporting fully autonomous vehicles could generate up to 100 gigabytes of data per second with a required response time in millisecond at an output of 1 Gigabit[1], which would be further amplified by the number of vehicles on the road. Each autonomous vehicle, therefore, will be a system operating in an environment where safety and traffic management is critical. Creating a condition where communications between vehicle to vehicle, vehicle to infrastructure, and vehicle to everything will be critical in establishing affective vehicle functionality, safety and operation capabilities in a busy city, and off road environment. Figure 2 provides a simplified illustration of the types of communication protocols required. The network supporting these communication protocols must be highly reliable, efficient and capable of sustaining large traffic loads.

Figure 2: V2V and V2I communications[3]

In order to support the data rate and communication requirements of fully autonomous vehicles, 5G mobile communications technology has the most potential to support the fully autonomous vehicle network architecture requirements. 5G offers higher data rates and management of capacity through software defined networks, that offer network slicing and cloud management techniques to manage traffic and capacity on demand, in addition to improve the physical layer with base stations and satellites operating at higher frequencies offering greater bandwidth. The cloud network architecture is also a key component offering an IoT environment to connect different vehicles through a plug and play API concept. This would establish effective traffic management and allow vehicles and infrastructure to communicate with each other regardless of the underlying technology in an interoperable manner.

Therefore, autonomous vehicles operating on the roads in the near or long term future; will mean that these vehicles must be a part of a wider network. This network will involve layers where transmission of data can be done over physical and software defined components to real time functional and non-functional requirements. Moreover, this endeavour would involve multi-industry and government co-operation. External communication infrastructure such as base stations, satellites and internal vehicle communication terminals, would be developed in conjunction with the telecommunication industry, working alongside with the automobile industry. Standards and government regulations would need to be in place to ensure that different vehicle providers are capable of interfacing city networks, and communicating with each other, for example a BMW vehicle must be able to communicate with a Mercedes vehicle and their surroundings. 

In short, to make fully autonomous vehicles a thing of normality, the underlying applications, communications technology, standards and infrastructure will need to be in place, thus, ensuring that such vehicles are road worthy.

Continue learning? Complement this article with our 2020 Autonomous Vehicle Technology Report, to which Fazal Chaudry has been a contributor.


  1. Express Drives Desk.  
    5G network as a game changer in the automotive industry and a basis for enhanced driver tech [Internet].
    Noida India. The Financial Express [Updates 2019/09/25].
    Available from:
  2. SAE International.
    SAE Standards News: J3016 automated-driving graphic update [Image on Internet]. Warrendale, PA 15096: Jennifer Shuttleworth; date of publication [2019/01/07].
    Avialable from:
  3. Texas Instruments.
    How connected vehicles leverage data: 3 common questions [Image on Internet].
    Boulevard Dallas, Texas: Hope Bovenzi; date of publication [2019/08/30].
    Available from:

More about Fazal Chaudry

Product Development Engineer. Master of Science, Space Studies, International Space University, Illkirch Graffenstaden,France.

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