PlugFest 2017 Helps Vendors, Manufacturers Make Progress on Connected, Driverless Technology

Jennifer van der Kleut

Representatives from several technology firms and equipment manufacturers say they walked away from last week’s PlugFest By the Bay in California feeling optimistic about the progress being made in the connected and driverless vehicle industries.

Companies from around the globe gathered in Fremont, California in the San Francisco Bay Area October 16th to 20th for another iteration of PlugFest, which allows different vendors to literally plug their equipment into each other’s to test interoperability and functionality as they work toward certification by OmniAir.

OmniAir is an independent, nonprofit industry consortium that has created a certification program that sets forth a series of standards for DSRC equipment (Dedicated Short Range Communications). The group encourages companies to bring their equipment up to their standards, which helps increase consistency throughout the industry, and the likelihood that one certified product will be able to function in tandem with others.

Once a product or piece of equipment is certified by OmniAir’s connected-vehicle program, it is added to the organization’s list of certified vendors, plus it allows the manufacturer access to test records and reports for other certified products.

In addition, OmniAir’s website indicates that many local, state and federal agencies–including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)–are already starting to require proof of OmniAir certification in order to submit to requests for proposals or to work on pilot programs.

At the 2017 PlugFest in Fremont, companies such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Dekra, 7layers, IntertekDanlaw and eTrans Systems brought their products to test functionality and interoperability with other vendors as they work toward certification.

Andrew Donaldson from Danlaw, a Michigan-based company that designs and manufactures connected-vehicle telematics, DSRC systems and V2X systems (vehicle-to-traffic system), participated in PlugFest in two ways–by testing their own products together with other products, and also to support other laboratories that use Danlaw’s systems as they work toward certification.

“We allowed them to test in two-hour slots and see if their systems are ready, and if not, why not,” Donaldson explained.

He said he was significantly impressed with the progress he saw from vendors that he had seen at another PlugFest event just a few months ago.

“Vendors are much further on than they were at the last PlugFest in May in Texas,” he said. “Some of the longest-term vendors are already passing tests.”

In addition, Donaldson said he was also encouraged by how many new vendors he saw.

“There are lots of vendors just getting into the space,” he said.

Though it will be a while before these newest vendors achieve certification and are ready for deployment, Donaldson said that is why events like PlugFest are so important, and so valuable for the industry as a whole.

“Some of the newer faces are still struggling a little bit, but we all were in the beginning. So it’s to be expected,” he explained. “But I think the industry has moved forward considerably over the past 12 months.”

Donaldson said confidently that attending three different PlugFests over the past year has helped Danlaw products make significant progress.

“We are getting very close to being ready for deployment,” he said. “That was one of the goals of this event–our devices and equipment are in good shape to do that.”

Rob Baily of eTrans Systems said he felt the same way after leaving PlugFest last week.

“The event allows us [vendors and manufacturers] to sit down together and ‘plug in,’ in order to ensure that [our products and systems] can talk to each other using defined standards,” he explained.

eTrans Systems brought their unique V2X software to last week’s PlugFest in order to test it with other vendors, as well as to support two companies that use eTrans software with their products–Danlaw, and Renesas Electronics.

“There were several vendors there running test systems and pre-certifcation testing, and we were working together with them, running tests on some of our devices like our DSRC radios, and various levels of our software,” Baily explained.

He too said he was impressed by the obvious progress that PlugFest events is bringing about in the connected-vehicle industry overall.

“It’s come a long way from last year, when people were struggling to get the very basics in place, so this year we were able to do a lot more advanced testing,” he said. “So it really shows how far the industry has come just in the last year.”

To learn more about OmniAir, click here.

To learn more about eTrans Systems, click here.

To learn more about Danlaw, click here.

Images: Credit/OmniAir.org

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