ICT4CART Interview Series: appointment number 4 with ASFINAG

1) Meet ASFINAG: the company

ASFINAG is Austria's motorway and expressway operator. More than 2,200 kms of road infrastructure are planned, financed, built, maintained, operated and tolled under the responsibility of ASFINAG. Our network includes 5,192 bridges as well as 166 tunnels and has more than 370 connection points. Owned by the Republic of Austria, we are working exclusively with the income from the lorry toll, the toll sticker and the route toll.

As a modern motorway operator, ASFINAG is already working on the mobility of the future - transmitting traffic information directly into the cars using digital infrastructure along with other elements such as communication devices and displays. This includes a variety of sensors to detect traffic and its surroundings in the best way possible,and ultimately monitor the entire motor- and expressway area.

2) ASFINAG in ICT4CART: what is your role?

ASFINAG leads the work package WP7 - Test Sites Integration and Data Collection. With our experience in testing on the specifically equipped 22 km long test track on the motorway A2 near Graz, we can provide valuable input and support. We are the leader of the Austrian test site and co-leader of the cross-border test site together with CRF. A further task will be to release automation level recommendations for road sections based on ISAD (Infrastructure Support Classification for Automated Driving) and traffic situation.

3) Can you explain to us what hybrid C-ITS is and how it applies in the project’s context?

C-ITS stands for “Co-operative Intelligent Transport Systems”. This term describes the exchange of safety-critical information between vehicles and the road via wireless technology. The infrastructure of today's roads is often equipped with sensors that gather information that can also be helpful to single vehicles. Communicating this information may be done locally (short range) or across a wider area (long range). Currently, the possibilities of these communication forms are ITS-G5 for the short range, and a mobile network technology (such as LTE-4G or, in the future, 5G) for the long range.

In contrast to classical WLAN that establishes a stable connection, ITS-G5 creates spontaneous short-time connections between vehicles and the infrastructure.

Hybrid communication means that the two different communication channels transmit exactly the same content for the vehicle allocated to the receiving C-ITS station.

This way, the two technologies support each other. When there is no short-range ITS-G5 coverage available, the car can still receive the C-ITS messages over long-range transmission, via the mobile communication network. When the mobile communication network has bad coverage, there is still the short-range ITS-G5 technology sending out the messages. Together, the two communication channels can cover the entire road network.

As the form of the C-ITS messages is internationally standardised and harmonised, whenever a vehicle receives a C-ITS message, it can pass this message directly to vehicles near it, without any transformation.

4) Which are the main challenges in hybrid C-ITS technology developments?

Currently, the main challenge in hybrid C-ITS technology is to agree on standardised communication channels, messages, and interfaces.

Current C-ITS standards and message formats are based on the principles of short-range communication (via ITS-G5). The C-ITS Deployment Group (with members from the automotive industry, road operators, but also the railway equipment and the agriculture machinery sectors) works on introducing ITS-G5 on Europe's roads.

Long-range C-ITS communication is still in development.

In the future, a vehicle may request the relevant traffic data from a message broker that covers a big area.

5) From ASFINAG’s perspective, how can the industry be helped to adjust and be ready for cooperative smart traffic technologies?

ASFINAG, as a road operator and infrastructure provider, is interested in harmonized, interoperable use cases, message specifications and profiles for C-ITS communication – no matter the channel.

ASFINAG appreciates and supports coordinated deployment on the road and in vehicles, not only in Austria, but across borders, too. Therefore, ASFINAG supports testing across borders and on all communication channels. Our goal is to get C-ITS messages into the vehicles as securely and as quickly as possible, which will increase driving safety for all road users.