Communication in Motion: Next Steps for NextGen Technology and Role in Sociomobility

As autonomous vehicles drive motorists into the future, ComArtSci is turning a lens on mobility to advance autonomous technology and connectivity, using ATSC 3.0 broadcast technology. The college is taking the lead on the effects of connectivity on humans, discovering the impact technology has on physical health, the environment and society.

This November, MSU Mobility Day offers industry experts and national media the opportunity to travel to East Lansing to witness the technological advancements and scholarly work taking place at Michigan State University. The team from the MSU Mobility Studio will introduce its work and six research areas, which include biometrics, cybersecurity, mobility management, fusion, interface and user experience, and public policy.

For years, the College of Communication Arts and Sciences has been studying areas that include the far-reaching social, behavioral, economic and ethical implications of autonomous vehicles. To explore emerging technology, the college's researchers seek to investigate new uses of IoT, the capabilities of advanced connectivity, and the potential of ATSC 3.0 broadcast technology – also known as NextGen TV – as it relates to mobility.


In 2018, WKAR received an experimental ATSC 3.0 license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to explore the future of broadcast technology. Using this technology, broadcasters can distribute targeted data to fast-moving devices with precision and high compression rates.

“NextGen technology has data implications for backseat entertainment as well as core technology related to autonomous vehicles,” said Dean Prabu David. “The technology is very robust. You can tune how the signal is delivered to catch every connected device within a certain radius, and the signal can be passed on.”

The ongoing efforts to explore mobility at ComArtSci range from using apps, games and virtual reality to conducting workforce studies. Simulating the promise of autonomous vehicles, researchers Robby Ratan and Taiwoo Park led a major study on the human component of the user experience in 2017. Using Oculus Rift technology, they developed a program that simulated the self-driving car for individual users. They presented their work at the 2018 North American International Auto Show.

Shelia Cotten, Ph.D., professor of Media and Information, researched the social impacts of autonomous vehicle technology, working to understand the perceived risks and benefits that Michigan residents have regarding autonomous vehicles. Cotten also led a study, in partnership with the American Center for Mobility and Texas A&M Transportation Institute, on Preparing the Workforce for Automated Vehicles, and she continues to study the concept of “sociomobility” and the impacts of emerging technologies, including autonomous vehicles.

“Our work on autonomous vehicles is very interdisciplinary,” said Cotten. “In terms of health and mobility, we’ve done studies to understand potential impacts of autonomous vehicles on the workforce and the needs of people across the life course, particularly older adults, as technology continues to advance.”

Leaders from many colleges and departments also plan to discuss the future of mobility, addressing issues ranging from legal mobility work to biometrics, predictive behavior, and connected vehicle technology such as V2V and V2X. MSU will also give visitors the opportunity to explore emerging technology and tour the modifications being made to Spartan Mobility Village.

The results of MSU Mobility Day will inform the ongoing research and technological advancements that may one day usher autonomous vehicles into the mainstream.

By Melissa Priebe