Comms in an automated transport world
In February 2019 I was invited to participate in public hearings associated with an inquiry into the ‘Automation of Mass Transit’ by the federal House of Representatives Standing Committee for Infrastructure, Transportation and Cities. The hearings sought further information from organisations that had made 52 submissions to the Inquiry. The University of Melbourne’s Centre for Disaster Management and Public Safety (CDMPS) was one of these organisations.
Participation in these hearings enabled me to promote CDMPS’s objective of stimulating a national conversation about the ‘mission-critical public safety communications ecosystem’; recognition of the ecosystem as part of Australia’s ‘critical infrastructure’; and in this instance, the need to include future systems such as cooperative intelligent transport and mass transit systems in the ecosystem.
The CDMPS has consistently promoted this objective, as we did in our submission to the Standing Committee’s previous inquiry into the role of smart ICT in the design and planning of infrastructure, tabled on 15 March 2016. That resultant report recommended the Australian Government recognise public safety communications systems as critical infrastructure and support the continuing development of these systems, including funding research, promoting implementation and providing national coordination in support of disaster planning and emergency response capabilities.
In the February hearings, the Committee noted my advice that after three years, there has been no government response to the Committee’s Report and its recommendations, which, from an ecosystem perspective, are cornerstones for policy development, strategic and operational planning and future procurement by government of technology capabilities required by Australia’s public safety agencies.
I sought assistance from the Committee to secure a government response to these earlier recommendations to provide important policy context for the leveraging of critical communications systems necessary to support automated mass transit systems, and strategic issues of national security and cybersecurity… as well as leveraging rapid advances in commercial consumer technologies and participation of the private sector in the ecosystem.
Procurement of a public safety mobile broadband capability will be a welcome new component of the ecosystem, but I advised the Committee this was only the first step as the future Next Generation Triple Zero service will be a component that must be able to communicate with automated mobility and mass transit systems.
The hearing also provided me the opportunity to tell the Committee about the need to adopt global open standards such as those being developed by the 3GPP, noting the US First Responder Network Authority recently asked 3GPP to leverage its standards research for vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure in development of standards for mission-critical public safety communications.
The Australian Radio Communications Industry Association (ARCIA) and The Critical Communications Association (TCCA), in conjunction with the Australian Critical Communications Forum (ACCF), also made submissions to the inquiry, supporting the need for global standards and consideration of the technical skill sets required to support Australia’s future critical communications infrastructure.
The Committee noted that the CDMPS, ARCIA and TCCA–ACCF submissions were the only ones specifically addressing mission-critical public safety communications. The sector needs to actively participate in government and departmental consultations about policy and strategy development relevant to the ecosystem or face being left behind and having other bodies set the future direction for the sector.
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