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Ford Studying Space Robots with the Russians for Next-Gen Vehicle Communications Systems

Sections: Telematics

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Associate Professor Vladimir Mulukha, Ph.D., Telematics Department of St. Petersburg Polytechnic University, shakes hands with the mobile humanoid “Justin,” one type of robot utilized in Ford’s space robots research project to advance connected vehicle communications. (Photo courtesy Ford Motor Company)

Ford is studying communications between robots in space and humans on earth in an effort to further develop vehicle-to-human, vehicle-to-grid, and vehicle-to-vehicle connectivity.

According to the press release from Ford, the automaker recently launched a three-year research partnership with the telematics department of St. Petersburg Polytechnic University in Russia. The university department is associated with its home country’s space agency, the release said — thus, Ford will be studying the way robots in space communicate with each other, with the grid, and with humans on the ground.

Ford Research and Innovation Chief Technical Officer and Vice President Paul Mascarenas said, “Ford has been committed to the research and development of connected vehicle communications for more than a decade. Our participation in this research can aid in the development of next-generation Ford driver-assist technologies. These technologies will globally benefit Ford customers, other road users and the environment”

The release said the development of connected vehicle communications has the potential to reduce traffic accidents and ease congestion by enabling vehicles to communicate with each other, and to communicate with buildings, traffic lights, the cloud and other systems to deliver a message or detect and respond to imminent collision warnings.

The release gave a couple of examples of what Ford is learning:

Emergency situations
One promising development from Ford’s research project with St. Petersburg Polytechnic University is the advancement in emergency vehicle communication methods. Ford is analyzing how emergency messages should be sent to ensure delivery if network failures were to occur, identifying the systems and methods that provide redundancy in case of primary delivery failure.

For example, if an accident were to cause vehicle-to-cloud communications (V2C) to be broken, a vehicle may still have access to a vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications network. An emergency signal message could potentially be sent through V2V to a vehicle nearby, and then between vehicles and infrastructures until it reached EMS.

“The research of fallback options and robust message networks is important,” said Oleg Gusikhin, technical leader in systems analytics for Ford. “If one network is down, alternatives need to be identified and strengthened to reliably propagate messages between networks.”

Space telematics
Telematics – the long-distance transmission of digital information – developed for use on space stations provide excellent potential for improving the reliability of future vehicle-to-cloud, vehicle-to-infrastructure, vehicle-to-vehicle and other forms of communication (V2X). The communications blend multiple networking technologies including dedicated short-range communication (DSRC), cellular LTE wireless broadband and mesh networking to ensure robust and reliable connectivity for optimum signal strength for critical messages.

Using the knowledge accrued from analyzing the space robots, Ford engineers could then develop an algorithm that is integrated into the V2X system resulting in a message that would route through the appropriate network depending on the level of its importance. An emergency message, for example, may be communicated through the faster mesh network, whereas an entertainment-related message would route through a vehicle-to-infrastructure application, an embedded device or a brought-in device network.

“We are analyzing the data to research which networks are the most robust and reliable for certain types of messages, as well as fallback options if networks were to fail in a particular scenario,” said Gusikhin. “In a crash, for example, a vehicle could have the option to communicate an emergency through a DSRC, LTE or a mesh network based on the type of signal, speed and robustness required to reach emergency responders as quickly as possible.”

The specific space robots leveraged for Ford’s telematics analysis include the JUSTIN Humanoid, EUROBOT Ground Prototype and NASA Robonaut R2.

Click here for a video on how Ford is studying space robot communications.

Blueprint for Mobility
Findings from this work could potentially enhance Ford’s wireless communication technologies and Blueprint for Mobility. Ford’s Blueprint for Mobility details the company’s vision on how to tackle the issues of mobility in an increasingly crowded and urbanized planet between now and 2025.

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