Anthony J. Pennings, PhD


Networking Connected Vehicles in the Automatrix

Posted on | January 15, 2024 | No Comments

Networking of connected vehicles draws on a combination of public-switched wireless communications, GPS and other satellites, and Vehicular Ad hoc Networks (VANET) that directly connect autos with each other and roadside infrastructure.[1] Connecting to 4G LTE, 5G, and even 3G and 2.5G in some cases provides access to the wider world of web devices and resources. Satellites provide geo-location services, emergency, and broadcast entertainment. VANETs enable vehicles to communicate with each other and with roadside infrastructure to improve road safety, traffic efficiency, and provide various applications and services.

This image shows an early version of a connected automatix infrastructure including a VANET.

This post outlines the major ways connected cars and other vehicles use broadband data communications. It builds some earlier work I started on the idea of the Automatrix, starting with “Google: Monetizing the Automatrix” and “Google You Can Drive My Car.” It is also written in anticipation of a continued discussion on net neutrality and connected vehicles although that is beyond the scope of this post.

Public-Switched Wireless Communications

Wireless communications include radio connectivity, cellular network architecture, and “home” orientation. This infrastructure differs significantly from the fixed broadband Internet and World Wide Web model designed around stationary “edge” devices with single Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. Mobile devices have been able to utilize the wireless cellular topology for unprecedented connectivity by replacing the IP address with a new number called the IMSI that identifies itself and maintains a link to a home network, usually a paid service plan with a cellular provider, e.g., Verizon, Orange, Vodaphone.

The digital signal transmission codes have changed over time, allowing for better signal quality, reduced interference, and improved capacity for handling voice and data services. These included Frequency Division Multiple Access (FDMA), Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA), and Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) that support both voice and data services. GSM was widely adopted standard for public-switched wireless communications, but has been largely replaced by CDMA and Long-Term Evolution (LTE) fourth-generation (4G) and more energy hungry and shorter range fifth-generation (5G) networks. With LTE traditional voice calls became digital and users could access a variety of data services, including text messaging, mobile internet, and multimedia content based on Internet Protocols (IP).

The public-switched wireless network divides a geographic coverage area into “cells” where each spatial division is served by a base station or cell tower that manages the electromagnetic spectrum transmissions and supports mobility as users move between cells. As a mobile device transitions from one cell to another, a “handoff” occurs that ensures uninterrupted connectivity as users move across different cells. Roaming agreements between different carriers enable users to maintain connectivity even when outside their home network coverage area. Digital switching systems are employed in the core network infrastructure to handle call routing, signaling, and management.

A key concept in the wireless public network is the notion of “home” with mobile devices typically using SIM cards with an international mobile subscriber identity (IMSI) number to authenticate and identify users on the network. SIM cards store subscriber information, including user credentials and network preferences.

Wireless communications incorporate security measures to protect user privacy and data. Encryption and authentication mechanisms help secure communication over the wireless networks.


Satellites play a crucial role in enhancing the capabilities of connected cars by providing various services and functionalities. They extend connectivity to areas with limited or no terrestrial network coverage, allowing access for connected cars traveling through remote or rural locations where traditional cellular coverage may be sparse. GPS satellites provide accurate location information, enabling navigation systems in cars to determine the vehicle’s position, calculate routes, and provide turn-by-turn directions.

Satellites also support a range of location-based services providing real-time traffic information, points of interest, and location-based notifications, enhancing the overall navigation experience. Satellite connectivity facilitates remote diagnostics and maintenance monitoring for connected vehicles. Satellites have provided remote monitoring and management of vehicle fleets. Fleet operators can track vehicle locations, monitor driving behavior, manage fuel efficiency, and schedule maintenance using satellite-based telematics solutions.

Satellites contribute to enhanced safety features in connected cars by enabling automatic crash notification systems. In the event of a collision, the vehicle can send an automatic distress signal with its location to emergency services, facilitating a quicker response. In the case of theft or emergency, satellite communication can be used to remotely disable the vehicle, track its location, or provide assistance to drivers.

Satellites also play a role in delivering over-the-air (OTA) updates to connected cars, allowing manufacturers to use satellite communication to send software updates, firmware upgrades, and map updates directly to the vehicles, ensuring they remain up-to-date with the latest features and improvements. They can also remotely assess vehicle health, identify potential issues, and schedule maintenance, reducing the need for physical visits to service centers.

Lastly, satellites support the delivery of entertainment and infotainment services to connected cars. Satellite radio services, for example, provide a wide range of channels with music, news, and other content, accessible to drivers and passengers in areas with limited terrestrial radio coverage.

Satellites can contribute to Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) communication by providing a reliable and wide-reaching communication infrastructure. V2X communication allows connected cars to exchange information with other vehicles, infrastructure (such as traffic signals), and even pedestrians, enhancing safety and traffic efficiency.

The integration of satellite technology enhances the overall connectivity, safety, and functionality of connected cars, contributing to a more advanced and intelligent automatrix.

Vehicular Ad hoc Networks (VANETs)

VANETs play a significant role in enhancing communication and connectivity among vehicles and with roadside infrastructure. VANETs have no base stations and devices can only transmit to other devices in the near proximity, such as other cars, emergency vehicles (ambulances, police, etc.) and roadside devices.

Here are some key characteristics of vehicular networks:

– A dynamic and rapidly changing network topology due to the constant movement of vehicles. Nodes (vehicles) enter and leave the network frequently, leading to a highly active environment.
– Direct communication between vehicles, allowing them to share information such as speed, position, and other relevant data. V2V communication plays a crucial role in enhancing road safety and traffic efficiency.
– Interactions between vehicles and roadside infrastructure, such as traffic lights, road signs, and sensors, enable vehicles to receive real-time information about traffic conditions and other relevant data.
– In the absence of a fixed infrastructure for communication, vehicles act as both nodes and routers, forming an ad hoc network where communication links are established based on proximity.
– Broadcast mode disseminates information about traffic warnings, road conditions, and emergency alerts to nearby vehicles.
– Low-latency communication supports real-time applications like collision avoidance systems and emergency alerts. Timely information exchange is crucial for the effectiveness of these applications.
– Security and privacy techniques for authentication, confidentiality, and data integrity.
– Connected vehicles support various traffic safety applications, including collision and lane-switching warnings, as well as collaborative cruise control. These applications aim to enhance overall road safety.
– Vehicular communication is influenced by signal fading and attenuation, especially in urban environments with obstacles. These factors need to be overcome for reliable communication.[3]

VANETs play a crucial role in the development of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) and contribute to creating safer, more efficient, and connected road networks. Due to the rapid mobility of vehicles, the Automatrix may experience frequent connectivity disruptions. Protocols and mechanisms are important to cope with intermittent connectivity.

One of the reasons I liked the category of the Automatrix was that the attention was on the context, not exclusively the individual vehicles. When it comes to connected cars, the implications of net neutrality are significant and can influence various aspects of their functionality and services.[4]

Connected cars contribute to the broader concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) by creating an interconnected network where vehicles, infrastructure, and users communicate and collaborate to enhance safety, efficiency, and overall driving experience. These connected vehicles leverage various sensors, embedded and internal Ethernet systems, and communication protocols to tether to Bluetooth and access mobile cellular and satellite services.


[1] Wahid I, Tanvir S, Ahmad M, Ullah F, AlGhamdi AS, Khan M, Alshamrani SS. (23 July 2022) Vehicular Ad Hoc Networks Routing Strategies for Intelligent Transportation System. Electronics 2022, 11(15), 2298;
[2] Image from Hakim Badis, Abderrezak Rachedi, in Modeling and Simulation of Computer Networks and Systems, 2015

Citation APA (7th Edition)

Pennings, A.J. (2024, Jan 15). Networking Connected Cars in the Automatrix.



AnthonybwAnthony J. Pennings, PhD is a Professor at the Department of Technology and Society, State University of New York, Korea teaching broadband policy and ICT for sustainable development. From 2002-2012 he was on the faculty of New York University where he taught digital economics and information systems management. He also taught in the Digital Media MBA at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas, where he lives when not in the Republic of Korea.


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