Listening to the Customer

Automobiles Play an Increasingly Important Role in Our Social System. Growing Use of Electronics and Networking of Information Lead to Dynamic Evolution

Hiroyuki Watanabe
Doctor of Engineering Chairman ITS Japan

With the rapid advancement of electronics, automobiles are undergoing a major "metamorphosis. "
Sensor and networking technologies will be indispensable for the future automotive industry.
Information technology is the key to reducing the negative impact of motoring, such as CO2 emissions, and transforming automotive mobility into something which brings about positive changes in society.
Intelligent transport systems (ITS) represent a solution to shaping such an automotive future. As a supplier of electronic components, Murata is expected to play an increasingly important role in further development of ITS technology.

Ongoing Innovation of Engine Technology: Energy Diversification and Saving Are the Key Challenges

Rapid innovation has been taking place in power plant technologies. In addition to the traditional combustion engine, we now have hybrid and electric drive systems. By 2015, automakers will launch fuel cell vehicles. There has been an increasing diversification of energy sources that are used to drive automobiles. The world's auto fleet surpassed 1 billion vehicles in 2010. Some experts forecast that the world's population will increase from 7 billion in 2011 to 9.2 billion by 2050, driven mainly by developing countries. The auto fleet grows with the increase in population. It will be necessary to diversify primary energy sources to fulfill the increasing demand for energy. Natural gas and electricity are two promising energy sources for vehicles. To generate electricity, we could use nuclear power. We would even use nuclear fusion in the far future.

On the other hand, we have been making remarkable progress in energy-saving technology. The average Japanese consumes half as much energy as his or her counterpart in the U.S.A. Japanese products are more energy-efficient than foreign products, partly because Japan has limited natural resources and suffers from high costs. This holds true for automobiles. Japanese automakers have developed impressively fuel-efficient vehicles. Further development of information and communication technology (ICT) will enable further energy savings in the future. Combining it with intelligent transport systems (ITS) would bring about a dramatic change in mobility.

Let Your Car Do What She Can: Autonomous Driving Is Now a Realistic Possibility

After the innovation of power plants, energy diversification, and energy saving, comes dynamic traffic management.

ITS is aimed at resolving traffic problems by use of information and communication technology and electronic control technology, thereby improving our quality of life and promoting economic development. It is now being developed in three major regions: Asia-Pacific, the Americas, and Europe. ITS is being developed in 3 major areas on a global basis. The first is advanced driving assistance systems (autonomous driving) . Research in this area has already advanced to some extent. At the 20th ITS World Congress Tokyo 2013 in autumn, participants will be able to actually experience this technology.

Autonomous driving is often misunderstood as fully automatic driving with no need for the driver's intervention. It is nothing like that. Rather, the driver always has the final responsibility. Autonomous driving aims to expand the scope of functionality that can be controlled automatically to provide a mobility that is safe, comfortable and friendly to all road users. One such automatic function is the exchange of information with the vehicle in front and other vehicles around your vehicle. For example, it warns the vehicle behind you when you brake your vehicle. Another function is interaction between the vehicle and the road infrastructure. If the system recognizes how sharply the bend ahead is curved and at which speed it can best be negotiated, it can automatically slow down the car in the best possible manner before entering the bend. At motorway junctions, the system recognizes the directions in which and speeds at which merging vehicles are approaching, and it decides whether to escape to the passing lane or slow down.

Japan already operates the world's most advanced system of this kind. The driving safety support system (DSSS) uses as many as 1,600 ITS spots installed along motorways to provide assistance to ensure safety at junctions.

Cities Will Replace Nations as Major Players in Addressing Environmental Problems, Competing in Reduction of CO2 Emissions

The second major area of ITS is reducing CO2 emissions. Since the turn of the century, Japan and Europe have in fact reduced their CO2 emissions despite an increase in the global figure. But again, we cannot know which cities and regions have made the greatest contributions. A technology to visualize these variations will soon be available. It uses information about the driving mode of each vehicle driving in each road section in the region to calculate its CO2 emission and adds up these figures to obtain total CO2 emissions.

To reduce CO2 emissions, Japanese local governments encourage drivers to use an ecological driving style and introduce electric and hybrid vehicles for public uses. Visualization of CO2 emissions will allow cities and regions to compete with each other in their efforts. It will make it possible to address smaller areas in implementing solutions and thereby produce greater effect. Spreading and networking these initiatives worldwide will bring about great benefits. I am convinced this will be a major challenge for the ITS World Congress from this point on.

ITS Spots

As a solution to road accidents, congestions, and environmental problems, this so-called next-generation road service will provide a networking of people, vehicles, and roads. ITS Spots are roadside communication beacons for an advanced combination of navigation and electronic toll collection (ETC) . They establish high-speed high-capacity communication links with on-board ITS Spot-compatible navigation systems, providing a range of services such as wide-area traffic messages and images. Japan is the global leader in this area, with as many as 1,600 ITS Spots already available, most of them installed on motorways. One of their functions, "Dynamic Route Guidance," uses information on 1,000 km of congestions collected by ITS Spots to recommend the fastest route to your destination. It also offers information on obstacles lying on the road surface ahead and rear ends of relevant congestions as well as emergency messages in the event of a disaster. The interactive communication system uses the 5.8 GHz band, i.e ., the same waves that have been employed for the conventional electronic toll collection system.

A Probe-Based Traffic System Proved Its Worth in the March 2011 Natural Disaster in East Japan

The third key discipline of ITS is disaster prevention. A promising system was put into practice during the March 2011 natural disaster in East Japan. It employs so-called "probe information".

Modern cars are fitted with many sensors that are used to control various systems, such as the speedometer, brakes, windshield wipers, and air-conditioner. By combining these sensors, navigation system, and communication technology, we can collect vital information from vehicles on the road and grasp congestions, weather conditions, and dangerous areas. During the major natural disaster in March 2011, probe information from 3 automakers and a manufacturer of navigation systems was collected and analyzed to reveal where vehicles stopped and which routes they then followed.

These data were combined with additional information on road closures from the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan to communicate passable and closed roads via the Internet. This information allowed logistics specialists to transport goods and the national government to smoothly dispatch rescue crews to the affected areas. This case illustrates how probe information can be utilized effectively.

Significance of Future Mobility in Our Social System

We must admit that automobiles have so far had some aspects that had a negative impact on society: They cause congestions, have risks of accidents, and emit CO2. However, automobiles can be more beneficial if we can mitigate or eliminate these problems. ICT and ITS technologies will play a key role in achieving such change.

People consume energy, but with peaks at different times and places. Detailed information about people's energy uses enables us to make good use of surplus supplies, to even out energy consumptions by making efficient use of wasted energy. Batteries on board power-generating vehicles could help this process. Many such socially-benefiting functions will be introduced in future automobiles, which will transform them into much more than a simple means of mobility.

We are far more technologically advanced today than we expected us to be a decade ago. ICT evolution is thought to develop in an exponential fashion. Computer calculation speed available for 1,000 dollars increases at a geometric rate. In other words, the introduction of ICT and ITS technologies will bring about considerable change in automobiles.

Research into the cyber-physical system is advanced in the U.S.A. The aim is to build a socially-useful system by combining the computing capacities available in real society and cyber space. The progress in sensor and networking technologies makes it possible to integrate big data on real society in cyber space, triggering the building of a completely new social system.

As you can see from the example of probe information above, I believe automobiles will play a central role in this process. While retaining the function of taking us from Point A to Point B, vehicles will become more sophisticated with the help of ICT technology. This will lead to nothing but a cyber-physical system. And I am convinced that Murata's sensing and communication technologies will play an active part here.

Forecast of World Population and Vehicle Fleet in 2050

Forecast of World Population and Vehicle Fleet in 2050

Source: 2006 United Nations Demographic Yearbook. Sources of automotive data: 2006 data (2006 fleet) form Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, Inc., and "Survey of Development of Comprehensive Evaluation Methods for Resource-related, Environmental, and Economic Aspects of Coal-based Automotive Fuels," 2007 data (forecasts for 2050) , Japan Automobile Research Institute.

Probe Information

Data from various sensors in the vehicle are combined with driving history and other information registered in the on-board navigation system to be provided for the information center. The center collects and edits such information to make it more useful and feeds it back to vehicles. Here vehicles serve as mobile sensors to collect information on congestions, weather conditions, and dangerous locations. Adding up a small amount of information from each of hundreds of thousands of vehicles makes it possible to collect more accurate information — from within traffic — from a wider area compared with an artificial satellite. Only navigation information, vehicle location, and history data such as abrupt vehicle movements are collected. It is impossible to identify vehicles or their drivers using probe information.

20th ITS World Congress Tokyo 2013

All over the world, intelligent transport systems (ITS) including navigation systems, electronic toll collection, and traffic information services have become familiar and essential aids to transportation and the movement of people. Today, ITS has entered a new stage. By integrating big data, actively utilizing databases, and integrating them with peripheral systems and technologies, ITS is now expanding its services beyond the limits of transport. The ITS World Congress is a multi-faceted event that attracts experts, government officials and corporate players from around the globe to exchange views and create business opportunities through a program including research findings, presentations, displays and practical demonstrations. The Tokyo event this year will celebrate 20th anniversary of the ITS World Congress, which started in 1994. It will be the third congress to be held in Japan, following the Yokohama event in 1995 and the Nagoya congress in 2004. The Asia-Pacific region, Europe and the Americas each host this annual congress in turn.

Theme for the 20th ITS World Congress Tokyo 2013: "Open ITS to the Next"

ITS is expanding into the next stage of mobility and society. Starting with safety and traffic management as basic concerns, ITS is reaching out to three new domains: energy management, personalized mobility services navigated by big data, and resilient transport systems. The first two stem from the emergence of electrified vehicles and continuously advancing ICT technologies, and the third concept of resilient transport has become very important since the March 2011 natural disaster in East Japan. "Open" has been adopted as the key word for 4 congress slogans for expanding the potential of ITS:

  • Open platforms
  • Open connectivity
  • Open opportunities
  • Open collaboration

■Opening Ceremony: Monday, October 14, 2013. Venue: Tokyo International Forum
■Congress Period: Tuesday, October 15 – Friday, October 18, 2013. Venue: Tokyo Big Sight

20th ITS World Congress Tokyo 2013
Open ITS to the Next