In order to support a growing economy and an increasingly connected world, the United States must invest in its infrastructure to accommodate the next gen of AVs (autonomous vehicles). From unreliable energy delivery to crumbling bridges, the consequences of not investing extend beyond economic; poor infrastructure negatively impacts lives and could even threaten them. In the future, IoT (Internet of Things)-enabled technologies will help cities and states keep a closer eye on their critical infrastructure. Burgeoning areas of the IoT, such as AVs, may also call for new types of infrastructure or different approaches to modernizing it.

For decades, the road and traffic infrastructure in the U.S. has reflected the cars traveling on its roadways—“dumb” vehicles controlled by human drivers. However, in the decades to come, more vehicles will be “smart” and capable of communicating with the physical infrastructure and the other vehicles around them. Autonomous vehicles are essentially “data centers on wheels,” and one of their great promises to society is that they will be able to constantly analyze vast amounts of data in order to keep people safe—both inside vehicles and outside of them. These technologies are creating the need for innovative in-vehicle networking solutions that can transmit data between sensors, cameras, and processing engines quickly and reliably.

A new alliance has formed with the goal of fostering the ecosystem development required to support the next generation of in-vehicle network infrastructure and, specifically, Multi-Gig Ethernet networking. Why Multi-Gig Ethernet? The NAV Alliance (Networking for Autonomous Vehicles Alliance) says the sheer volume of data generated by the various sensors involved in autonomous-vehicle operation—a volume that could reach up to 32TB every eight hours—requires a new breed of ultra-high-speed networks.

Besides supporting the development of in-vehicle network infrastructure, other objectives for the NAV Alliance include creating specifications for interoperability, security, and reliability of in-vehicle networks, promoting products and solutions that adhere to the new specifications, and establishing standards body liaisons, among other goals. Founding members of the alliance include Aquantia, Bosch, Continental, NVIDIA, and Volkswagen.

The paradigm shift to autonomous vehicles will require investments in both the networking infrastructure and physical infrastructure to ensure these machines deliver on the promise of safer, more efficient roadways. In fact, in order to achieve the true goal of self-driving vehicles—which is, arguably, to eliminate road accidents—the industry will need to perfect the art of in-vehicle, V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle), and V2I (vehicle-to-infrastructure) communication. This will require standards and a focus on interoperability, as well as continued innovation in the realms of AI (artificial intelligence), vehicle sensing and response systems, and more.

Infrastructure is also going to be key to unlocking the value of autonomous vehicles. The next generation of physical infrastructure will likely integrate smart sensors and connectivity into pavement, traffic signals, and other aspects of America’s roads and highways, so that smart, eventually driverless cars can “talk” to their surroundings. The NAV Alliance is one positive example of industry players coming together to address some of the challenges hindering this communication, ultimately helping to bring an autonomous world closer to reality.

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