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Ford studies space robots for advanced vehicle comms

Ford is to study robotic communications in space to help it develop connected car communications which could some day lead to reduce traffic congestion and prevent accidents.

Justin the robot

As part of a three-year research partnership with St. Petersburg Polytechnic University in Russia, the carmaker will analyse the communications models of robots on the International Space Station and how they communication with Earth.

Emergency protocol

The aim of the project is to help develop advanced communication systems for cars and advance the development of emergency vehicle communication methods.

The development of connected vehicle communications has the potential to reduce traffic accidents and ease congestion by enabling vehicles to communicate with each other, and to communicate with buildings, traffic lights, the cloud and other systems to deliver a message or detect and respond to imminent collision warnings.

“Ford has been committed to the research and development of connected vehicle communications for more than a decade,” said Paul Mascarenas, chief technical officer and vice president, Ford research and innovation. “Our participation in this research can aid in the development of next-generation Ford driver-assist technologies. These technologies will globally benefit Ford customers, other road users and the environment.”

Ultimately improving journey times and reducing congestion could lead to lower emissions and less wasted fuel. Advanced vehicle communications also hold the promise of driverless cars, when advanced communications and sensors take over the role of the driver.


One promising development from Ford’s research project with St. Petersburg Polytechnic University is the advancement in emergency vehicle communication methods. Ford is analysing how emergency messages should be sent to ensure delivery if network failures were to occur, identifying the systems and methods that provide redundancy in case of primary delivery failure.

For example, if an accident were to cause vehicle-to-cloud communications (V2C) to be broken, a vehicle may still have access to a vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications network. An emergency signal message could potentially be sent through V2V to a vehicle nearby, and then between vehicles and infrastructures until it reached EMS.

“The research of fall-back 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.”

Current communication systems used on space stations hold excellent potential for improving the reliability of future vehicle-to-cloud, vehicle-to-infrastructure, vehicle-to-vehicle and other forms of communication (V2X). The communications blend multiple networking technologies including dedicated short-range communication (DSRC), cellular LTE wireless broadband and mesh networking to ensure robust and reliable connectivity for optimum signal strength for critical messages.

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Faye Sunderland

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