We can confidently assume that vehicle information technologies such as those involved in autonomous driving will shape the future of the sector. But before we get there, these technologies will need to go through the crucial phase of field operational tests or FOTs — where a certain number of participants are recruited to try a novel system or service for a few months or years before it enters the market. Since 2008, the EU has supported a number of vehicle information technology FOTs. ‘Thousands of drivers have been able to test the most promising prototypes and products just entering the markets, and massive amounts of driving and traffic data has been collected during these tests,’ says Sami Koskinen, Senior Scientist at VTT and coordinator of the FOT-NET DATA (Field Operational Test Networking and Data Sharing Support) project. Instead of losing the results from these tests, the FOT Community and the European Commission wanted to share them and make them available for reuse. They initiated the FOT-NET, FOT-NET2 and now FOT-NET DATA projects, with a view to build bridges between FOTs, increase their visibility, allow for cross-learning, and maintain a methodology handbook named FESTA. The ultimate goal: enabling more stakeholders to contribute. ‘Not many scientists are able to gather the funds required to carry out a large-scale user test,’ Koskinen explains. ‘FOT budgets have rarely been under EUR 200 000, and usually we are actually discussing millions of euros for purchasing and installing equipment, and recruiting hundreds if not thousands of test users.’ By making such large-scale test data available to the community, FOT-NET allows stakeholders with a low budget — for example university students conducting thesis work — to exploit this data, and enable them to focus their work on more specific research questions. ‘The most successful data sharing cases have been those from naturalistic driving studies, where loads of video and sensor data has been collected from everyday driving. Such data can reveal various problems in traffic to be tackled with new designs and technology,’ Koskinen says. A continuation of the FOT-NET initiative, FOT-NET DATA first shed light on the latest technology tests with a specific focus on connected and automated vehicles. It also aimed to expand the FOT-NET network by initiating collaboration with the US DOT and Japanese MLIT, organising yearly events at the ITS World Congresses. Besides this international dimension, the project also resulted in the so-called Data Sharing Framework, a set of documentation to guide projects in data management and sharing. It provides, for example, instructions as to what to include in legal agreements to enable data sharing and how to upkeep privacy for test participants. Finally, FOT-NET DATA created an online catalogue of available datasets from FOTs. ‘The catalogue promotes resources as well as related services. It will be kept up-to-date by a new support action named CARTRE that continues FOT-NET’s key activities,’ Koskinen explains. CARTRE workshops will tackle the issue of automated driving, discussing methodology and planning for international collaboration and harmonisation.
FOT, FOT-NET, autonomous car, automated driving, data sharing, technology, vehicle information technology, mobility