Advanced 4G Technology to
Improve Road Safety

In an extraordinary two year trial, two Australian corporate
leaders in their respective fields unite with the Victorian
government to lead the world on an innovative program called
"Advance Connected Vehicles Victoria."
Its lofty goal? To bring down Victoria’s deadly road toll to zero.

Advance Connected Vehicle Victoria is a program that examines how current technology allows vehicles to communicate with each other and its surrounds to reduce the potential for road accidents, minimize road congestion, induce fuel efficiencies and reduce carbon emissions.

Luxury car brand, Lexus Australia has teamed with Australia’s leading telecommunications company, Telstra with the support of VicRoads through a $3.5 million grant to “develop, test and research Lexus vehicles fitted with Cellular V2X technology” as part of the state government’s $9 million Towards Zero Connected and Automated Vehicle Trial Grants Program.

Lexus has committed its two RX 450h F Sports SUVs which are ideal for this type of program owing to its capacious design and on-road drive capabilities.

The trial program harnesses Telstra's 4G mobile network together with vehicular in-built short-range 5.9 GHz radios (utilizing a shared 4G cellular system).

The trials which begin at the Lexus test track in Melbourne’s Altona location will then expand to Victorian roads under strict supervision.

The Asian Executive interviewed James Soo ( JS), VicRoads Acting Director Road User and Vehicle Access,Nikos Katinakis (NK), Group Executive for Networks & IT for Telstra, and Scott Thompson (ST), CEO of Lexus Australia for commentary about this trial.

“New technologies, like those being trialled, offer exciting opportunities to further improve road safety and increase our understanding of what Victoria needs to do to prepare for connected and automated vehicles.”

Samantha Cockfield, Transport Accident Commission Director Road Safety

Transport Accident Commission Director
Road Safety Samantha Cockfield

James Soo, VicRoads Acting Director Road User
and Vehicle Access

TAE: After the two-year trial period, where does VicRoads expect to be?

JS: It’s hard to pre-empt what the two-year trial will bring, but one possible outcome is an extension of the trial into a more broader context.

TAE: Has VicRoads considered the liability issues surrounding the future reliance on connected vehicle technology?

JS: We are at early days in terms of studying the details around third party liability. Our first priority is to assess the data to unlock ways to improve road safety.

TAE: Beyond this program, how open are you to exploring how technology can improve road safety?

JS: We are very keen to understand from a safety perspective what other technologies can be applied to serve this purpose. We are open to discussion with other parties on how to drive this mission goal.

TAE: What advantages has the combination of Lexus, Telstra and the resources of the Victorian government brought to this trial

JS: This is a unique opportunity for sure. A global manufacturer and significant telco sharing and learning from this experience.

TAE: What is the Towards Zero program?

JS: Its an aspirational goal of a future where there are zero fatalities and zero injuries on our roads.

TAE: In layman terms, what is Cellular V2X technology

that is the essential part of this trial?

NK: C-V2X is a technology that enables cars "talk" to each other and with its surroundings via Telstra's 4G mobile network and importantly, through direct short-range radio links.

TAE: : Does this technology falter when there is no 4G network in a local area?

NK: When there is no 4G network, the V2X technology in cars then relies on its short-range radio waves to get through urgent safety messages.

TAE: : Where does the future 5G network fit into the scheme of things?

NK: : Firstly, V2X technology is based on an advanced form of 4G, which has a lower latency quality and larger capacity. For example, in peak hour traffic and where there is heavy internet load in the immediate area, critical vehicle safety messages can cut through when most required. The equipment that we are presently rolling out across the country allows for the activation of 5G technology as part of the rollout. 5G, as your readers would know is a great deal faster than 4G

TAE: : Manufacturers around the world have committed vast resources towards technology that makes our cars more intelligent. How is this program unique?

NK:I believe that these trials are indeed unique and are certainly opening the opportunity for Australia to punch way above its weight in terms of our understanding and application of car-to-car communications and with its surrounds. Both Lexus and Victorian government ought to be commended for taking a joint role with Telstra to advance our technological capabilities in Australia.Starting with our 4G network and easing in our future 5G network, we are creating a high-performance specialized link on our mobile network. Part of our trial will also test out an innovative 'vehicle cloud' to connect vehicles to nearby services.

TAE: : In your opening address, you were guarded about the difference between the goals of this two-year trial

Scott Thompson, CEO Lexus Australia

Nikos Katinakis, Telstra Group Executive Network and IT

program and the utopian goal of autonomous driving. Why so?

ST: This particular program about enhancing the driver's capabilities – it's not about autonomous driving. I see it as a practical and achievable way to deal with natural human fallibilities in road conditions and improve their safety in the process. I think anybody who is driving a motor vehicle and can be pre-warned seconds ahead of a potential accident will instantly see the benefit of this type of technology. So I think there are far-reaching opportunities beyond our luxury car brands for themass market.

TAE: Recent overseas studies have shown that drivers are naturally reticent to entrust their driving instincts to sight-unseen autonomous processes. Does this trial address this issue in any way?

ST: This trial technology is not about taking over the role of a driver. At its core, it's a pre-warning system. Under driving conditions, every millisecond counts and for potential hazard ahead and an alert to the driver can make a world of difference.

TAE: Finally, The two Lexus vehicles under trial are already equipped with advanced safety features such as autonomous emergency braking. How does Cellular 2X technology improve upon Lexus’ already cutting-edge in-built standard features?

ST: This program moves beyond our standard features in different ways. In one specific example, the emergency electronic brake light warning system (which relies on the Cellular V2X technology) enables vehicles to alert drivers about other vehicles braking hard some distance ahead and possibly even out of direct sight. In the broader context, Lexus has a philosophy based on continual improvement and particularly around the way we use technology to enhance the driver experience. This trial program is an extension of that philosophy of which we are a proud participant.

On Trial – Specific Tasks of the Two Year Program

Vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle to infrastructure and vehicle-to-network technologies to be trialled with the two vehicles are:

  • Emergency electronic brake light
  • Alerts drivers to a co-operative vehicle that is braking hard some distance ahead.

  • In-vehicle speed warning
  • Provides drivers with information about active, static or variable speed limits.

  • Right-turn assist
  • Alerts drivers to pedestrians or bicycles crossing at an upcoming intersection.

  • Red-light violator warning
  • Alerts drivers that another co-operative vehicle is likely to run a red light across their path at the intersection ahead.

  • Curve speed warning
  • An advisory speed limit is displayed when a vehicle is approaching a curve in the road where speed needs to be reduced in adverse conditions.

  • Slow/stopped vehicle
  • Warns the driver when a vehicle ahead is stopped or travelling slower,and there is a risk of rear-end collision.

    Source: Lexus Australia