Russian Gets Ready to Choose its Tech for V2X

In 2019, telematics manufacturer Fort Telecom had presented what it believes is the first locally engineered and produced road-side V2X unit.

The device complies with the DSRC/ITS-G5 specification. It mimics the typical architecture of RSUs offered by leading manufacturers except with a higher level of robustness and autonomy, in response to local issues such as climate, vandalism and theft, and low density of infrastructure. “We intended the RSU to require minimum maintenance by human personnel,” said Vladimir Makarenko, Fort Telecom’s business development director. “It comes with a built-in UPS, serious surge protection and an automated diagnostic feature.”

This year, Fort Telecom is planning to enhance its range of V2X equipment with an DSRC-based OBU and a C-V2X modification of the road-side unit. Meanwhile, Sreda Software Solutions is about to present its complex software solution for front-end units and back-end servers, also for the first time in the country. The two producers lay much of their hopes on foreign markets because, in Russia, mass market deployment of V2X infrastructure is “tens of years” away, according to Denis Endachev, deputy director for IT and AI of the Central Scientific Research Automobile and Automotive Engines Institute (NAMI). “A big number of interrelated services must be developed,” he said. “To ensure that we have a usable and thoroughly tested system in the end, we had planned an extensive program of experiments for a long-time span.”

With its Smart Test Facility project, NAMI was the first institution in the country to launch a comprehensive program of field studies of connectivity systems. 2020 will see a number of other state-funded small-scale connectivity pilots on public motorways.

Endachev says that his team is facing serious challenges along the way including hardware issues and a lack of regulation. Global equipment supply base is not matured: “Most of the devices we can see in the market are just prototypes which often don’t perform as expected.”

As to the Russian developers: “Not one of them was able to provide us with sample road-side units for testing purposes as of the end of 2019,” said he. “Maybe some prototypes exist but we could not find anything capable of operating as a part of a complex system.” Although he did not specifically mention Fort Telecom’s efforts.

Another major problem is absence of national technological standards: “Many of the existing protocols are not standardized yet. On many occasions, our engineers have to do the guessing or come up with original solutions.” Makarenko was more optimistic expecting “large scale commercial projects not sooner than in two years. We understand that it’ll take five to seven years before our investment starts to pay back.”

CTO at Sreda, Yaroslav Domaratsky, thinks that the industry has reached a plateau. To spur it on, regulators must issue the national standards and define the monetization model. Uncertainty in these two questions is keeping automakers off the scene. Nowadays, safety is the key reason for automakers to enhance their vehicles with connectivity. “In Russia, general safety has never been seen as a top priority,” he said.

Carmakers are also reluctant to get ahead of the government because they’re afraid to “take the wrong train” with the technological approach. Domaratsky said: “Companies are not going to massively invest in connectivity solutions until the frames are set.”

Being concerned about sustaining competitiveness, he wants the regulators to set the monetization model as soon as possible: “Right now, our technologies are state-of-the-art but we cannot proceed any longer without sales. It poses a threat to lag behind.”

East or West?

For Russia, this question equals to “ITS-G5 or C-V2X”. The country borders with both China which bets on cellular-based solutions and European Union where the dedicated RSU-based infrastructure is in deployment.

Today, Russia is gravitating towards Europe. It is known, for instance, that the authorities consulted extensively with the experts from Finnish Transport Safety Agency Trafi and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. NAMI is to conduct the earlier promised comparative evaluation of the two approaches due in 2020 before the decision on the nation’s further strategy will be made.

One way or another, the national standard should support a flawless system under both the Chinese and European rules, thinks Domaratsky. One particular question is compliance with the cyber-security norms: “In the vehicle connectivity theme, data trustworthiness is especially important. Digital signatures and cryptographic methods used for this purpose in Europe and China differ on certain points. It means that OBUs of Russian vehicles must switch automatically between the two algorithms in case of an international trip. Or even three of them, if Russia decides to have its own algorithm, why not?”

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