Ford investigating space robots for telematics development

Vehicle maker Ford has begun an investigation into the way that robots at the International Space Station communicate with Earth in an effort to improve its own connected-car offerings.

The manufacturer says much of its research is being carried out through a three-year partnership with St Petersburg Polytechnic University in Russia, whose specific purpose is to analyze space-based robotic communications systems for vehicle mesh networks.

Vehicle maker Ford has begun an investigation into the way that robots at the International Space Station communicate with Earth in an effort to improve its own connected-car offerings.

The manufacturer says much of its research is being carried out through a three-year partnership with St Petersburg Polytechnic University in Russia, whose specific purpose is to analyze space-based robotic communications systems for vehicle mesh networks.

“Ford [Detroit, MI, USA] has been committed to the research and development of connected vehicle communications for more than a decade,” said Paul Mascarenas, the chief technical officer and vice-president of Ford research and innovation. “Our participation in this research can aid in the development of next-generation Ford driver-assist technologies.”

Ford notes that a promising development already identified by the research project is the advancement in emergency vehicle communication methods, and says it is looking at ways to guarantee the delivery of emergency messages in the event of network failures.

“The research of fallback options and robust message networks is important,” said Oleg Gusikhin, technical leader in systems analytics for Ford. “If one network is down, alternatives need to be identified and strengthened to reliably propagate messages between networks.”

The company believes that telematics technology developed for use on space stations has the potential to radically improve the reliability of future vehicle-to-cloud, vehicle-to-infrastructure and vehicle-to-vehicle communications.

It says that Ford engineers could develop an algorithm, based on knowledge accrued from analyzing the space robots, to ensure messages are routed through the most appropriate network depending on their level of importance.

In a real-world setting, that could mean routing an emergency message through the faster mesh network but transmitting an entertainment-related message through a vehicle-to-infrastructure application.

“We are analyzing the data to research which networks are the most robust and reliable for certain types of messages, as well as fallback options if networks were to fail in a particular scenario,” said Gusikhin. “In a crash, for example, a vehicle could have the option to communicate an emergency though a DSRC, LTE or a mesh network based on the type of signal, speed and robustness required to reach emergency responders as quickly as possible.”