Telefónica, in partnership with Nokia, Ineco, Stellantis, the CTAG (Automotive Technology Centre of Galicia) and SICE, has sensorised and given 5G coverage to the Cereixal tunnel on the A-6 (Lugo) of the road network of the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda, thus moving towards a smart road that communicates with connected vehicles and assists driving.
Together with its project partners, the operator has made the Cereixal tunnel the first in Spain to be connected to vehicles. The smart tunnel sends information to drivers on the weather conditions at the exit, road works, warnings of slow vehicles, potential congestion, accidents, obstacles on the road, the presence of pedestrians, oncoming vehicles and sudden braking during their journeys through it, as well as warnings of the entry of emergency vehicles.
To do so it uses the specific capabilities for C-V2X (cellular vehicle-to-everything) vehicular communications and IoT (Internet of Things) sensorisation and edge computing of the 5G network.
Similarly, both the sensors (opacimeter, slippery road surface, visibility, weather station) and the cameras that are installed (DAI, thermal, detection of dangerous goods, detection of electric vehicles) make it possible to monitor the state of the tunnel and generate information and send it to a monitoring tool so that the infrastructure managers can view all the information collected by the IoT sensors, analyse it and, if necessary, issue alerts and warnings to the vehicles that pass through it.
This initiative is being developed within the framework of the 5G Galicia Pilot promoted by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation through Red.es for the development of this technology in Spain by means of a public call for applications for aid co-financed by the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) in partnership with the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda in its commitment to digitise roads, particularly in areas with unique characteristics such as tunnels which require special attention.
To implement the use cases it has been necessary to deploy 5G aerials that provide coverage both in and outside the tunnel, IoT sensors and video cameras, an MEC (Multi-access Edge Computing) server near the base station that provides coverage to the vehicles and a 5G router in the tunnel itself to collect information on what is happening in it by means of the IoT sensors and cameras installed there.
As for the vehicles, they are fitted with a communications unit called a TCU (Transmission Control Unit) to convert them into connected vehicles. The pilot has also developed an application that can be installed in a 5G smartphone so that drivers can receive alerts even if their vehicles don’t have a TCU fitted in them, thus increasing the number of vehicles connected to the tunnel.
Nokia is providing the project with end-to-end connectivity infrastructure, including Nokia AirScale 5G radio equipment, the 5G virtualised core, an MEC server and the Nokia 5G FastMile Gateway deployed in the tunnel as a 5G router.
The CTAG, as a specialised technological centre and a leader in connected mobility, has integrated its developments in cooperative systems into the prototype vehicles, including both the on-board 5G communications unit and the different C-V2X cooperative services that have also been developed by the CTAG. It has also deployed an ITS server in the MEC to permit communication between the infrastructure and the vehicles. In addition, together with the other partners, it has performed the validation and fine-tuning tests.
As for Stellantis, it provides the constructor’s vision in terms of the technical specifications and vehicle integration with the three demonstrators used in the project (DS7, DS4 and Peugeot Traveller). The test results are analysed by the Group’s engineers in order to gather experience for the development of its future vehicles.
Inside the Cereixal tunnel and in the surrounding area SICE has been responsible for the integration of environmental sensors, incident detection cameras and readers of number plates and dangerous goods, as well as different sets of equipment whose information is processed and sent in real time to the systems of the other technological partners. The processing of the information includes analysis of the state of the traffic, as well as the identification of the environmental mark of the vehicles and the kind of dangerous goods transported. In addition, alerts on obstacles such as adverse weather conditions, low visibility levels, the presence of pedestrians in the tunnel, stationary vehicles and vehicles travelling at a reduced speed or even in the wrong direction are sent.
During this project Ineco has developed a system capable of integrating all the information captured by the tunnel sensors and the weather station and receiving, managing and sending all the events that are emitted or received by the connected vehicles. The development provides the tunnel managers with a dashboard with all the necessary information, including live video images, so that they know what is happening inside the infrastructure in real time. As a result, the operation managers can obtain all the information centralised in the system, access it from any geographical location, interact with the vehicles/drivers themselves and, in short, perform more effective, rapid, interactive and secure management.
As highlighted by Mercedes Fernández, Innovation Manager at Telefónica España, “initiatives such as the one implemented in the Cereixal tunnel, which bring intelligence to the road and facilitate assisted driving, improve the information available to drivers for their decision-making and, therefore, enhance road safety. The 5G network’s high connectivity capabilities, low latency, maximum reliability and large bandwidths constitute key pillars in the connected car ecosystem, which is shifting from assisted driving to autonomous driving”.
Emilio Navarro, Account Manager for Telefónica España at Nokia, remarked: “these kinds of cross-sectoral collaborative projects are an excellent way of validating not only the technology, but also the final application and the value for all the parties involved and, ultimately, society. By means of this pilot we can test the benefits of 5G technology applied to assisted driving, during which the immediacy of the information transmission is vital for safety”.
According to Francisco Sánchez, Director of the CTAG’s Electronics and ITS Division, “this project allows us to evaluate and demonstrate the potential of 5G technology in its first steps towards future connected and automated mobility. In this regard, the specific characteristics of 5G technology will enable us to significantly increase the levels of vehicle automation on motorways and dual-carriageways and extend its use to complex scenarios such as urban and rural environments.
As for Laudelino Laiz, Head of Innovation in the Iberian Peninsula at Stellantis, he indicated that “this new experimentation complements the actions of our company’s global innovation network. Projects such as this one make it possible to shape the ecosystem that needs to be implemented to develop connectivity solutions based on 5G technology, in this case at the service of safety in a unique environment such as a tunnel. They’re essential and they lie at the heart of our innovation strategy in this area”.
“We’re grateful to Telefónica España for giving us the chance to showcase not only our skills related to the connected vehicle, by integrating the information from the road infrastructure into the connected car ecosystem through the 5G network, but also our experience in infrastructure technology management that we’ve been able to demonstrate in more than 300 kilometres of tunnels on the five continents”, emphasised Francisco Moya, SICE’s Environment and Mobility Manager.
“At Ineco we apply the most cutting-edge technologies, including 5G, the IoT and the Digital Twin, to build the transport infrastructures of the future today. We believe that, in order to ensure safe, sustainable and connected mobility, it’s essential to study all these new technologies, identify the developments that can bring the greatest benefits to society and apply them in innovation projects that demonstrate their viability. And this is precisely what we’ve done in the 5G tunnel projects, as well as during the railway inspections with 5G drones”, remarked José Ángel Higueras, Head of the Roads, Mobility and Intermodality Business Unit at Ineco.