Comment: A space-age approach to platooning

PICTURE ALT TEXT HEREHORIBA MIRA is exploring platooning technology for passenger vehicles with GMV NSL and the European Space Agency. Tim Edwards, Chief Engineer for Connected & Autonomous Vehicle Technologies at HORIBA MIRA, explains more.

To keep pace with government carbon reduction plans and electric vehicle (EV) deployment targets, it is anticipated that the number of EVs on UK roads could increase from 100,000 today to three million by 2025, soaring to 25 million by 2035.

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These figures have been outlined in a paper by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, which goes on to suggest that the lower taxes and reduced running costs compared to ICE vehicles will encourage more use of private cars and more road miles to be driven by motorists. Consequently, congestion is set to rapidly worsen, and the time wasted while stuck in traffic is predicted to rise by up to 50 per cent in parallel.


The suggested solution is to reform taxes and shift to a road pricing methodology, yet Innovate UK’s Transport Vision 2050 report indicates that this could take up until 2040 to introduce. Even with tax reform to discourage unnecessary road travel, population growth means that congestion will remain a significant issue for the foreseeable future, resulting in lost productivity and reduced quality of life.

As a result, other solutions are needed to help ease congestion, increase road utilisation and improve traffic efficiency, regardless of political changes. Platooning is such a solution.

While platooning has been on the radar for some time, the technology typically focuses on commercial vehicle applications. Yet the development of such solutions for passenger cars has the potential to be ground-breaking, with the benefits significant and wide-reaching.

Platooning optimises the flow of traffic streams, allows shorter distances between vehicles while still ensuring safe operation, and prevents ‘perturbations’ – the phenomenon of waves of braking and acceleration that transmit through manually controlled, high-density traffic. It enhances passenger comfort, increases vehicle efficiency, lowers emissions and improves utilisation of the existing road infrastructure, which in turn reduces the need for new road building to accommodate the anticipated rise in traffic levels.

With extensive experience in cooperative driving research and development, HORIBA MIRA is collaborating with GMV NSL, one of the pioneers of Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) technologies, to deliver an innovative solution for the European Space Agency (ESA)*. The project is funded under the ESA Navigation Innovation and Support Programme (NAVISP) and will inform ESA’s future developments and contribute to applications of GNSS and communication technologies within the automotive sector.

The project aims to provide new solutions for cooperative positioning between platooned cars, comprising advances in ranging and vehicle communications, along with algorithms developed to ensure data integrity. HORIBA MIRA’s novel vehicle-in-the-loop simulation capabilities will enable seamless progress from simulation-based development to proving ground trials within 2022.

The trials will advance cooperative positioning, which is enabled with a variety of range-finding sensors, with the data communicated between vehicles via low latency wireless communications. The development of algorithms to ensure data integrity – and required to assess the quality of positioning and ranging data available to the platooning vehicles – will be hugely significant to such solutions.

While there are a great many factors that influence traffic density on any given road – from weather conditions to highway design – platooning on main arterial routes has the potential to increase capacity compared to manual driving, while improving vehicle efficiency and energy consumption, and simultaneously improving passenger comfort.

It’s these advantages that are driving HORIBA MIRA’s Assured CAV team, with over 15 years’ research and development in cooperative driving, vehicle-to-everything (V2X) and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications, to develop the relevant hardware integrations and software algorithms to advance the potential platooning can offer.