UK startup, Cisco team to test Wi-Fi for autonomous vehicles

Oxbotica’s software platform could help upload and download data from autonomous vehicles to help in managing autonomous fleets.

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Cisco has partnered with UK startup Oxbotica to demonstrate how they might gather data from autonomous vehicles via Wi-Fi hotspots using OpenRoam, a federation of identity providers, network service providers and equipment vendors

In tests, the companies hope to show how vehicles fitted out with Oxbotica software could upload and download data at hotspots deployed to gas stations, electric vehicle charging stations, parking garages and other places vehicles stop for periods of time.

This capability could help support the management of autonomous fleets that Cisco says would need to transfer 8.3GB of data per day to and from each vehicle.

The transfers would be enabled using OpenRoam’s guidelines for wireless service providers on how devices can automatically login and authenticate to their networks and roam within and among them.

According to the company’s website, Oxford University spin-out Oxbotica sells software for autonomous vehicles that makes them able to navigate safely even if they are not connected to a network. Oxbotica customers would include autonomous-systems vendors that might incorporate all or parts of the company’s platform in their own platforms. Some of the software modules direct the gathering of data generated within vehicles and exporting data at hotspots.

According to Dirk Gorissen, Technical Product Lead at Oxbotica, Cisco is providing the network fabric over which data is taken off the vehicle and into the cloud for use by Oxbotica and operators. “Cisco’s OpenRoaming platform gives you the ease of use of a cellular connection, yet at the same time it gives you the bandwidth guaranteed and the ubiquitous nature and ease of deployment of Wi-Fi,” he said.

Success of OpenRoam will depend on how widely providers accept it, said Pedro Pacheco, Senior Research Director at Gartner, in a statement. “Conceptually, OpenRoaming makes sense as it could allow autonomous vehicles to freely exchange data more regularly,” he said. “However, success depends on the level of coverage. In addition, going past the development stage, autonomous cars will have less need for data exchange (even if these cars generate a lot of data, not all needs to be exported).”

“This will happen not only for cost reasons, but also because these vehicles must operate flawlessly in areas with no data connection, be it Wi-Fi or cellular,” he said.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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