Automobile makers are equipping cars with more and more user friendly features with every new model that is launched. The need for people to communicate constantly has escalated way beyond what was even considered possible just a few years ago. Many people today use their mobile devices to talk and even send e-mail while commuting to office or when traveling long distances.
Motorists would also like to have entertainment when they travel, and many want to have Internet connectivity for browsing the Net, checking and responding to email and for other types of work which requires being online, when on the move. Again, in most technologically advanced as well as developing nations there are problems of city traffic congestion during peak hours, and drivers have to be kept informed about what lies ahead so they can make appropriate decisions on which route to take. So the latest challenge for automakers is to provide connectivity to motorists in a way that they can handle it safely when on the move.
IP Addresses for Cars
Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) provides for an almost unlimited number of IP addresses, and some auto makers in Europe, China and Japan are already producing cars with IPv6 built in. Infrastructure for future “smart” transportation networks is being built on the basis of this standard through governmental initiatives in these countries. The objective of installing such networks as in the Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) conceived of by the U.S Department of Transportation, is to relieve traffic congestion on the roads, with lowered fuel consumption, pollution control and mitigation of the other travails of travel coming a close second. Traffic flow can easily be monitored by the use of sensors which modern cars are fitted with, so that all kinds of relevant information from the vehicle’s speed to its direction of travel and the ambient temperature outside the car can be relayed to the controlling center by wireless transmission.
Another key area where IPv6 scores over its forerunner IPv4, is its integrated quality of service (QOS) capabilities. High quality and reliability of audio and video transmission are possible with IPv6, through the use of a router control protocol such as Resource Reservation Protocol (RSVP): data packet transfer from source to destination is sped along a routed path for a resultant high quality audio and video.
Achieving mobile connectivity
IPv6 Internet connectivity based on the new IPv6 is expected to transmit information at a speed of 40 gigabytes per second, which is about a thousand times faster than is possible at present. With its vast address space capacity, IPv6 is the ideal choice for new devices and appliances. The way to achieve mobile connectivity is to embed IPv6 technology into new devices by means of network processors that are imprinted with IP addresses to double as serial numbers. Over the next few years, technology innovations will make it possible for car drivers and passengers to be connected with safety features thrown in.
Ford has introduced the Microsoft developed Sync in its Lincoln and Mercury models slated for early 2008 release. It allows hands-free operation of mobile phone and music system. Wireless Bluetooth or wired USB connections are used in the Sync scheme to bring about linkages between music and communication devices, which can be operated by voice commands and switches placed on the steering wheel. Sync lends itself to most functions that can be performed on a laptop or PDA.
China IPv6 deployment
China has made rapid strides in IPv6 deployment, and the rest of the world is waiting with bated breath to see the dazzling display of IPv6 enabled devices and applications at the 2008 Olympics to be held in Beijing. The range of technologies and applications that are to be launched during the Beijing Olympics on the IPv6 platform include:
Broadband technology- both fixed and mobile, such as GSM/EDGE, WiFi/WiMAX, TD-SCDMA and McWlLL
Applications like High Definition TV, VPN, Leased lines, Narrow- and broadband access, Mobile ticketing and blogging, Video streaming and Mobile TV advertising.
Taxis, security cameras and cameras filming the Olympic events are all going to be networked via IPv6, with live streaming of events over the Internet. Spectators can catch a glimpse of the events right from the networked cars. Traffic regulation will also be done via the network.
When speaking at the the EU Expert Conference on IPv6 held in 2006 at Vienna, Gerard Segarra, Head of the Information Systems and Telematic Research and Innovative Projects Unit of Renault (which makes six million new vehicles each year and also owns Nissan of Japan) highlighted the advantages of IPv6 for vehicles. Combining computers and wireless telecommunications technologies for use in remote monitoring of vehicles is called vehicles telematics. Each car may need several hundred IP addresses, and IP security, which is feasible under the IPv6 based Internet connectivity.
Telematics can work in different ways: between an organization and the vehicle, between different parts of the same vehicle, between two or more vehicles (V2V could communicate on traffic jams ahead, for instance), between roadside stations and the vehicle, and between roadside stations (to give advance warning about possible traffic dangers that may be lurking further up the road). Upcoming applications enabled by IPv6 would provide for checking a vehicle’s condition, accident reporting and entertainment on the move.
As per recent estimates, outfitting a car with a suite of IPv6 telematics would cost about 300 euros, but it is manifestly feasible to achieve economies of scale over time. The mode of connectivity will have a bearing on achieving higher efficiencies of transmission and to some extent on the costs. Given the large volumes of vehicles on the roads in most countries, the automotive industry may well provide the impetus for extended deployment of IPv6.
The Road Ahead
The US federal government undertook in 2006 a worldwide inventory of 630,740 vehicles which had covered more than five billion miles. Using IPv6-enabled sensors, it is possible for governmental agencies to track and recover lost or stolen vehicles. Improved vehicle safety, lowered maintenance costs (by making routine checks using internal sensors), enhanced emergency management preparedness, efficient inventory control (for decisions on phasing out and replacing vehicles), achieve remote querying, and vehicle budget planning exercises, are some of the potential applications that can be run on the IPv6 platform.
According to Tim LeMaster, director of systems engineering at Juniper Networks, the future is bright for vehicular traffic run on the IPv6 platform. Vehicles having their own IP addresses will be able to communicate with sensors fitted on the roads to help prevent accidents. With IPv6 technology, signals will be received by drivers warning them to apply the brakes. It should also be possible for parents to track the cars of their teenaged kids and monitor driving speeds. Chatting while on the move and communication between drivers on the road are other possibilities that are being envisaged. Consider another scenario where a driver is stranded on account of a problem with his sophisticated fuel injection system. By dialling his car manufacturer’s network, he can get a mechanic to remotely link up over a mobile telephone link to the car’s system, diagnose and resolve the problem. All of this is achieved via Simple Network Management (SNMP) over an IP link. Although this capability is still in its formative stage, car manufacturers are working towards making this a reality.