New York City Builds Over-the-Air Support Network

The New York City Connected Vehicle Pilot project, led by the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT), has procured and developed processes to update connected vehicle software and operating parameters to implement vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-infrastructure, and vehicle-to-pedestrian applications.

The U.S. Department of Transportation Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office sponsored the Connected Vehicle Pilot Deployment Program to pioneer the deployment of connected vehicle technologies in three U.S. locations, including New York City. The pilot program will demonstrate how safety-related warnings and other connected vehicle applications can be deployed in the real world to address safety, mobility, and environmental goals.

The New York City pilot encompasses three distinct areas in the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn. The pilot will install aftermarket safety devices (specifically, a device installed after initial vehicle manufacture that can send and receive connected vehicle messages) on 5,850 taxis; 700 Metropolitan Transportation Authority buses; 1,050 sanitation and NYCDOT vehicles; and 400 UPS vehicles.

Throughout the New York City pilot, NYCDOT will need to ensure dynamic updates to the aftermarket safety devices with custom firmware or threshold settings. NYCDOT will need to quickly perform over-the-air updates of all or a subset of the 8,000 vehicles mentioned above at approximately the same time.

Firmware updates can be slow, requiring the device to have a consistent connection to the network supplying the update. Therefore, on-the-move updates cannot currently be supported as the connection can drop when switching between roadside units (RSUs). Additionally, the updates need to be pushed out over dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) in the 5.9 GHz band. The New York City pilot does not use other networks, such as Wi-Fi or cellular data, to push updates. Further, where previous projects physically accessed the onboard units, this method would not be practical for the New York City deployment, and so all updates (as well as data collection) must use the DSRC media.

To support these firmware updates, NYCDOT's connected vehicle infrastructure deployment will include the integration of over-the-air firmware updates into a subset of specialized RSUs. These units will be deployed at 36 support locations throughout the city. Support locations include airports and terminal facilities, which are known as "barns." The barns are locations frequently visited by fleet vehicles and where the vehicles will be parked for sufficient amounts of time to support firmware updates.

The Traffic Management Center device management centers initiate the firmware update process for the aftermarket safety devices. The device management center will send out Wave Service Advertisements over a control channel to aftermarket safety devices through select RSUs. Wave Service Advertisements notify a device when a new firmware update is available, so that an update can be initiated once the vehicle is at a support location. Once the aftermarket safety device connects to an RSU that supports updates, it is directed to a special service channel to receive the update data.

The device vendor will digitally sign the firmware updates so that they can be verified as legitimate by the devices before implementing the update. Failed verifications will block unauthorized update attempts, and the Traffic Management Center will be notified in the event a verification fails. For data analysis purposes, data collected by NYCDOT will include custom metadata that has fields for the firmware version and settings in place during data collection.

Updates are delivered by the RSUs in two ways--some are broadcast continuously for devices to monitor and capture, and some use the unicast system that requires the device to initiate the update.

These standardized over-the-air update procedures will allow the New York City Connected Vehicle Pilot to efficiently update all or a subset of their vehicles to meet both device manufacturer recommendations and their own custom experimentation. Firmware updates are a vital part of the connected vehicle infrastructure, and lessons learned from the New York City pilot implementation will provide key guidance for future deployments.

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For more information on the Connected Vehicle Pilot Deployment Program, visit: https://www.its.dot.gov/pilots/.

For more information on the New York City pilot, visit the NYCDOT Connected Vehicle Pilot website:  https://cvp.nyc/.