The automotive sector is undergoing rapid upheaval with the arrival of electric vehicles (EVs) and semi-autonomous vehicles and now moving towards fully autonomous vehicles. A slew of new companies that did not exist 20 years ago, such as Tesla, Uber, Google, and others, are innovating at a rate that has not been seen before in the field of transportation. The reason for such innovations is change in society's preference towards greater sustainability in transportation by way of cleaner fuels to reduce pollution (EVs such as Tesla), ride-sharing to reduce road congestion (Uber), autonomous vehicles to reduce the need for large parking infrastructure (Google). The optimized convergence of these three transportation modalities would result in exponentially compounded benefits for sustainability transportation of the future.
While there is rapid innovation in the vehicular technology itself, the infrastructure to support the above vision of sustainable transportation including automatic traffic light sensing, instantaneous traffic data, Vehicle to Infrastructure Communications (V2I), Vehicle to Vehicle communications (V2V), managing and delivering electricity to EVs (including shuttles and people movers) while they are moving, managing traffic dynamically based on real-time and historical data, detecting and avoiding pedestrians, and others, are in their early stages at best. This makes it much harder for vehicle manufacturers to innovate towards fully autonomous and all electric vehicles beyond a point. Innovations in the areas of communications, sensors, software, cloud computing, controls, energy storage, power management, battery technology, cybersecurity, big data, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are paving the way to create the Smart City of the Future that would enable the above vision.
In UCLA, we are working towards putting together a research and demonstration testbed to investigate several of the above topics. This will be the first technical workshop on the subject of Autonomous and Electric Vehicle Technology, Grid and Communications Infrastructure in a Smart City. UCLA faculty and researchers will discuss the challenges, opportunities and technologies that are being developed and that need to be developed in the future. UCLA SMERC testbed plans will be presented and participants from industry, government, regulatory bodies, venture capitalists, etc., will be invited to provide feedback. The WINSmartEV (Wireless Internet Smart Electric Vehicle Network) testbed infrastructure developed in the last decade at UCLA along with the heterogeneous communications network consisting of 3G, WiFi, Ethernet, Bluetooth, Zigbee, Power Line Communications, IEC 61850 etc., deployed both within the university campus and in other parts of Los Angeles including Port of Los Angeles, downtown Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Pasadena, Pomona, etc., will be presented. This infrastructure will be used as a foundation platform to expand into the Smart City infrastructure field testbed to support autonomous and electric vehicles as they become more ubiquitous with our Smart Cities vision.
California is playing a leading role in the innovations that enable this coupling between vehicles and the infrastructure, by way of research and technology coming out of academia, and also by way of new startups whether from Silicon Valley or right here in Los Angeles' Silicon Beach. While today's vehicles are restricted to semi-autonomous capability with driving range limitations (if they are electric), in the future with the advent of smaller and faster sensors, high-speed vision systems, smart communications such low latency 5G technology, wireless and smart power transfer into electric cars, smart grids, micro grids and battery energy storage that allows energy generated from solar panels to be stored and cached close to transportation hugs, the vision of the smart city with autonomous and electric vehicles would become a reality.