As automakers and suppliers eye the potential of fully connected cities, the hard realities of rolling out those technologies are quickly becoming apparent.
One case study of the challenges of creating smart infrastructure: traffic lights.
Across the U.S., metropolitan areas have designed traffic control systems in fragmented ways, using different technological approaches. But getting traffic lights to work in a way that smooths traffic patterns could ease congestion, lower fuel consumption and ease the transition to self-driving fleets.
"If all the vehicles knew what all the traffic lights did, our best guess is the human carbon production would go down about 200 billion tons per year," said Matt Ginsberg, CEO of Connected Signals, a data-processing company that has worked with BMW and is in talks with other carmakers.
But before that is possible, traffic lights and vehicles need to learn to talk to each other.
"The biggest challenge so far is cities are not yet consistent about the means of communication for [traffic light] information," said Zach Bolton, a project manager for Continental. "It's all over the map."
Continental is developing in-vehicle technology that can read traffic signal information and, eventually, incorporate that information into the vehicles' powertrain and braking systems to enable potential fuel efficiency gains.
While the proposed federal mandate for vehicle-to-vehicle communication establishes the radio-based dedicated short-range communications, or DSRC, as a common language, no such requirement exists for vehicle-to-infrastructure technology.
This leaves cities two options: Replace legacy lights with costly, but industry-preferred, DSRC-enabled ones, or connect existing lights to a central data hub to transmit information over an Internet-based connection. Continental chooses to sidestep this by enabling both communications technologies for its system.