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Mobility and the VANET Opportunity December 10, 2012

Posted by kristinamensch in Mobility.

Today people are more connected than ever. You may not realize it but “mobile devices have reached more people in many developing countries than power grids, road systems, water works, or fiber optic networks.” [1] This, in my opinion, is an amazing fact. The scope of technology is so much farther than most people realize; it connects people more remote than roads can reach. Mobile computing is not limited to smartphone technology, but encompasses a wide range of ideas and incorporates many fields.

Mobile and ubiquitous computing are concerned with the integration of technology in the world surrounding us, the standards and protocols that should be used to accomplish this, and the applications that can be developed. Technologies that are included in these computing spaces include augmented reality, tangible interfaces, wearable computers, and vehicular networks (to name just a few). The future possibilities of Vehicular Ad Hoc Networks, or VANETS, are particular intriguing to me.

VANET Overview

Vehicular Ad Hoc Networks, or VANETs, are networks in which vehicles and roadside infrastructure nodes can send, receive, and route communications. VANET-capable vehicles contain on-board units (OBUs) that enable both vehicle to vehicle (V2V) and vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) communications. VANET roadside units (RDUs) provide internet access and message forwarding to the vehicles within their range.

There are three general classifications of VANET applications: active road safety, traffic efficiency and management, and infotainment applications. Active road safety applications seek to decrease traffic accidents and injuries by providing collision avoidance and hazardous condition information to drivers. Traffic efficiency and management applications provide updated road and traffic maps and messages to drivers. Infotainment applications can provide drivers with local areas of interest, internet connectivity, and service applications.

The nature of VANET requires that all vehicles and infrastructure follow certain standards and protocols to ensure that all makes and models of vehicles can communicate. In the USA the networking standards for VANETs have been defined by the IEEE 802.11p and IEEE 1609 protocols. The FCC has also set aside the 5.9GHz band for VANET communications.

Application Opportunity

When my stay at home parenting days ended last spring it ushered my family into a new world in a variety of ways. One of the most frustrating aspects of two fulltime working parents was the coordination of daycare pick-up. The difference in our workday hours and length of our commutes often meant getting home at nearly the same time. Trying to figure out who was closer to home and could pick up the children first was an exercise that usually resulted in us passing each other in the daycare parking lot. In order to solve this problem I have decided to design an application that will leverage a previously implemented and moderately saturated VANET.

Example Scenario:

John and Jane are a married couple with children who work in opposite directions from the family home. While at work their children attend a daycare center close to their home. John and Jane work similar hours and because John’s commute is shorter than Jane’s he usually picks up the children on his way home. Today, while preparing to leave the office, John was called into his supervisor’s office to answer a ‘quick question’ and was detained for an extra half hour. Jane ends her work day and begins her commute home as normal. When she passes the final overpass before exiting the freeway for home her vehicle computer breaks into the music she is listening to and tells her that John has not yet passed this point in his afternoon commute and she will be the first parent to pass the daycare center on the way home.

‘Would you like to pick up the children?’ the system asks.

‘Yes,’ she responds.

She has accepted the pickup task from the application. When the children are safely picked up a notification is sent to John’s vehicle’s application to let him know there is no need to stop. Jane will also have the option of delaying the pickup task if she decides to make a quick stop at the grocery store or gas station before picking up the children. Jane can manage this stop and add this task to her route by interacting with the application’s user interface that runs on her in-vehicle computer.

System Requirements:

  • VANET- equipped vehicles
  • Area-wide, moderately saturated VANET infrastructure
  • Private sector application
  • Cloud based application server that provides
    • Location aggregation
    • Traffic monitoring
    • Time to destination calculations
    • Send notifications to the participant


The feasibility of this application is dependent upon the infrastructure and wide spread adoption of VANETs therefore discussion of the general challenges facing the successful implementation of these networks is pertinent.  Many of the challenges facing such an implementation are outlined in [2] along with their potential remedies. The biggest challenge in deployment of a vehicular network is privacy and security. We must be able to balance the need for authentication of messages to provide security within the network with the necessity of personal anonymity. If we can accurately authenticate users, messages, and locations, while maintaining driver anonymity we can mitigate potential weaknesses and points of attack to vehicular networks and the applications that utilize them. For vehicle authentication, the anonymization service described in [2] creates and presents a constantly changing public identification key that allows for driver and vehicle anonymity. The vehicle ‘entanglement’ solution outlined is also a potential way to present reliable and accurate positioning data which can be used for message and location authentication.

Another challenge that VANET systems face is how best to manage the routing and delivery of data packets [3]. The management and tracking of highly mobile vehicle IP addresses and locating these addresses within the network at any given time is a complex process. [3] suggests that address management be done based on geographical regions. Position based, or geo-routing, is a potential answer to the issue of locating the intended receiver of packet data. This protocol routes a data packet based on the last known location of vehicle IP addresses within the network. Another data challenge that vehicular network applications face is the potential congestion of communication channels as private infotainment application usage increases. The increased latency and packet dropping due to congestion cannot be tolerated on an overcrowded VANET when the network is also responsible for safety critical applications and services such as collision avoidance. The network traffic for these infotainment applications must not impede the communications used by VANET safety applications. Potential solutions to this specific challenge include a specific portion of the allocated bandwidth be set aside for safety critical communications or that vehicles contain two transponders, one to receive safety transmission and the other to receive all other communications [4].

The proposed application also faces unique challenges. The Pick-Up Manager application requires a solid VANET infrastructure base and moderate level of network adoption to provide a well covered network within the local area it is operating in. Without infrastructure resources and constant vehicle to vehicle communications the application will not be able to determine location, speed, or traffic conditions with the necessary granularity required to accurately determine the arrival times of the users. The application data information must be securely transported over the network to maintain user privacy. This will require encryption of the data packets being routed to and from the user vehicles and application server. Further, data stored on the server must be secured to ensure the privacy of the users and the trustworthiness of the information.


VANET technologies are continuing to develop and evolve. Researchers in government, academia, and industry are working together to develop better communication protocols, networking architectures, and standards to move closer to the widespread deployment of vehicular networks. When the time comes for widespread deployment of vehicular networks I believe that infotainment applications, like the Day Care Pick-Up Manager, and the services that they provide will be the driving force behind adoption of this technology.  Not only can this application be utilized by parents to coordinate pick up in a daycare situation, it could potentially be expanded to be used by anybody trying to coordinate errands or meet-ups with another person or people. In my opinion infotainment applications and the public’s desire to be connected with them will drive the adoption and necessitate the nationwide creation and deployment of a successful vehicular network.

[1]  C. Z. Qiang, M. Yamamichi, V. Hausman and D. Altman, “Mobile Applications for the Health Sector,” December 2011. [Online]. Available: http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INFORMATIONANDCOMMUNICATIONANDTECHNOLOGIES/Resources/mHealth_report.pdf. [Accessed 10 December 2012].

[2]  B. Parno and A. Perrig, “parno.pdf,” 17 July 2008. [Online]. Available: http://conferences.sigcomm.org/hotnets/2005/papers/parno.pdf. [Accessed 28 11 2012].

[3]  G. Karagiannis, O. Altintas, E. Ekici, G. Heijenk, B. Jarupan, K. Lin and T. Weil, “Vehicular Networking:,” IEEE COMMUNICATIONS SURVEYS & TUTORIALS, pp. 584-616, 2011.

[4]  H.T. Cheng, et al., Infotainment and road safety service support in vehicular networking: From a communication perspective, Mechanical Systems and Signal Processing (2010), doi:10.1016/j.ymssp.2010.11.009



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