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2014 IEEE 22nd International Conference on Network Protocols

Obstacle Shadowing Influences in VANET Safety

Scott E. Carpenter
Department of Computer Science
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC, USA
Cost-limited test-bed environments constrain prototype
testing, leading VANET investigators to instead use simulation
toolsets which can lead to inconsistent results. While VANET
simulations allow investigators to select from a wide range of
models for radio wave propagation, fading, and shadowing,
they often fail to consider realistic road topologies and the
presence of obstacles [2]. VANET modeling improves when a
visibility scheme describes the topology as a configuration
space and supports obstacle detection. Model accuracy
influences simulation results and directly impacts the
performance assessment of VANET safety applications.

Abstract Wireless communications between vehicles enables

both safety applications, such as accident avoidance, and nonsafety applications, such as traffic congestion alerts [1] with the
intent of improving safety in driving conditions. Because costlimited test-bed environments constrain prototype testing,
VANET researchers often turn instead to simulation toolsets
from which a rich set of environmental scenarios are modeled.
However, despite the availability of such tools, results are
While VANET investigators often model
propagation loss deterministically dependent upon transmitterreceiver distance, fading and shadowing effects are often
modeled stochastically, leading to probabilistic results which are
independent of the actual environment and thus fail to consider
realistic road topologies and the presence of obstacles [2]. In this
work, we implement for ns-3 [3] the empirically-validated
obstacle shadowing model from [4] by leveraging building data
from OpenStreetMap (OSM) [5] to deterministically evaluate
line of sight propagation effects using techniques from
computational geometry, and we further extend results to
evaluate safety performance assessments.

VANET applications differ by their communications

requirements, which include: packet size, update rate, range,
and latency [8]. For example, a safety-critical application such
as forward collision warning system (FCWS) requires rapid
information dispersal of the SAE J2735 Basic Safety Message
(BSM) to nearby traffic, while other non-safety, broadcastoriented applications, such as traffic-jam alert, require efficient
information delivery to large or targeted areas with reduced
reliability and delay requirements [9].

The impact to safety performance measurement of obstacles

in VANET simulations motivates the following research
objective: The goal of this research is to show quantitatively how
accurate, deterministic obstacle fading models impact the
performance assessment of VANET safety applications.

By considering the number of packets, time tolerance

windows, and awareness probability, communications
awareness range [10] can be used to assess the effectiveness of
different applications by determining the likelihood that a
target number of safety packets can be reliably received over a
time window.
Such results are insightful to the relative
comparison of safety application performance.

Deterministic shadowing compares differently than stochastic

fading and failing to account for the effects of obstacles in safety
assessment can inaccurately or even greatly overstate the
performance of VANET safety applications. Including realistic
obstacle shadowing in VANET simulation modeling improves
VANET assessment and strengthens safety, thus supporting one
of the primary goals of connected vehicle systems.


Consideration of the impact to safety performance

measurement of obstacles in VANET simulations motivates
the stated research objective and is guided by the following
research questions (RQ):

KeywordsVANET; obstacles; propagation loss; fading;

shadowing; simulation; ns-3;


RQ1: Can fast fading and shadowing effects of obstacles,

such as buildings, vehicles and trees, be modeled and
efficiently simulated in ns-3 [3]?


Collisions among moving vehicles lead all causes of traffic

fatalities, injuries, and property damage [6]. By exchanging
information using wireless communications, cars and trucks
enable both safety applications, such as accident avoidance,
and non-safety applications, such as traffic congestion alerts
[1]. The US Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Joint
Program Office (JPO) suggests that vehicle safety applications
and supporting technologies will prevent tens of thousands of
automobile crashes every year [7]. The most promising
technologies in the U.S. that will enable such a vehicular ad
hoc network (VANET) are collectively referred to as
Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC).
978-1-4799-6204-4/14 $31.00 2014 IEEE
DOI 10.1109/ICNP.2014.72


Because model realism improves simulation results, a

deterministically real fast fading and shadowing model that
accounts for radio wave propagation through obstacles will
improve the usefulness of existing detailed network simulation
tools, such as ns-3.
RQ2: How do other VANET fading and shadowing
models compare to a deterministic obstacle shadowing model?
By implementing a deterministic obstacle fading model and
comparing simulation results to other stochastic shadowing


moodels, a perform
mance characteerization of thee obstacle fadiing
moodel can be mad
RQ3: What is the impact to VANET application
perrformance of a deterministic obstacle faading model, as
mpared to otherr fading and sh
hadowing modeels?
By using sim
mulation resultss to assess safe
fety performance,
thee safety impactt of a determin
nistic obstacle fading
model can
be quantifiably co
ompared to other fading / shad
dowing modelss.




ards and Opera

A. DSRC Standa
In the U.S. Dedicated Short-Range Communicatio
SRC) technolo
ogies support wireless
unications with
a vehicular ad hoc network
k (VANET).
de IEEE Std
d. 802.11-2012, IEEE Std.
stanndards includ
16009/WAVE, and
d SAE J2735 Message
Set Dictionary.

Fig. 1 - GoogleEartth view (a) and SUMO viiew (b) of a
blendeed residential / open highwaay scenario and
d zoomed-in
view (cc) of downtown
n Raleigh, NC
C. Buildings (sshaded) may
signifficantly attenu
uate radio sign
nal propagatioon between
vehiclees, affecting V
VANET application safety peerformance.

IEEE Std 802

2.11-2012 hand
dles the MAC and PHY layeers
of the reference model and prrovides extenssions intended to
mic nature of potentially fast-moving vehicles.
adddress the dynam
A pprimary enhanccement allows a STA that is not a member of
Basic Service Set (BSS) to traansmit data fram
mes, allowing the
HY to operate outside

the con
ntext of a BSS, (i.e. OCB) and
thuus defining a neew type of 802..11 communicaations.

D. Safe
fety Assessmentt and Metrics
Drivving conditionn safety impprovements froom VANET
technollogies remain ddifficult to asseess. While num
merous safety
applicaations have been proposed, noone are standarddized [16].

B. Radio Propag
gation Models
A Radio Prop
pagation Modeel (RPM) handles the effects of
atteenuation, fadin
ng, and shado
owing as rad
dio waves mo
throough space. Stochastic models
determiine the physiccal
parrameters of the vehicularr channel in
n a completeely
proobabilistic man
nner without co
onsidering underlying geometry
[111], and could
d therefore deeviate severely
y from realisstic
behhavior [4]. Ch
hannel models commonly ussed for multipaath
andd shadowing fading
(e.g., Raayleigh, Weibu
ull, Nakagami--m,
andd lognormal [15]) can be norrmalized by thee general gamm
disttribution in (1)):

In a VANET, infformation disseemination of saafety packets

is criticcal, requiring a need to evalluate network-layer routing
and deelivery [17]; fo
for accurate paacket delivery we have to
consideer the packet ddelivery ratio (P
PDR) [18] andd packet drop
rate [199]. Potential saafety benefits oof VANET appplications can
be asssessed based on the estim
mated effectiveeness of the
applicaation in terms oof reduction of crash-related factors (e.g.
functionnal years lost,, vehicles crasshed, and direcct costs) [8].
Applicaation performaance depends on awarenesss probability,
PA(x, nn, Ttol), which is the probabiility of receiviing at least n
packetss in the tolerancce time window
w, Ttol [8] [10] [17].


The authors of [4] pressent an emp

detterministic obsttacle shadowin
ng model that shows
the effects
of bbuildings in an
n urban environ
nment using daata gathered fro
EE 802.11p dev


C. Obstacle Mod
deling improv
ves when a visibility
desscribes the top
pology as a con
nfiguration spaace and suppo
obsstacle detectio
Most visibility
mes divide the
connfiguration spaace into sub-areeas by some criteria [2] [4] [1
[133]. Fig. 1 sho
ows example scenarios (Ralleigh, NC USA)
mulated in Sim
mulation for Urban
Mobilitty (SUMO) [1
usinng buildings daata from OSM [5].

Thee authors of [100] provide a methodology thaat extends the

use off awareness probability to instead deetermine the
awarenness range, RA(P
PA) = d, whichh is the maxim
mum distance,
d, at w
which a threshoold awareness probability, PA, is met or
exceedeed. The awarreness range caan then be com
mpared to the
vehicullar operating coonditions (e.g. braking distannce, expected
commuunications rangge, etc.) to deetermine if succh conditions
can be met. Intuitiveely, awareness range describees whether or
not therre is sufficient distance and ttime for a safetty application
to suppport user reesponses that maintain saffe operating
conditioons and is cconceptually m
much closer to a suitable
measurre of applicationn-level perform

Current app
proaches to detect obstaacles within a
connfiguration spaace employ diffferent algorith
hms with varyiing
come from
computaational geomettry
techhniques includ
ding intersectio
on problems [4] [13] and binaary
spaace partitions (BSP) [4] [12] that are ap
pplied to mod
vehhicles and/or bu
uildings as obstacles.

Tottal path loss, P

PL in (3), is m
modeled as the cumulative
effects of i) Lp, signaal attenuation due to distancce, ii) Lf, fast
fading multipath suchh as ground reeflections, andd iii) Ls, slow
fading ffrom shadowinng due to buildings and other obstacles.






An obstacle model leverages the Computational Geometry

Algorithms Library (CGAL) [20] to count obstacle
intersections, calculate interior intersection distances and
implement deterministically the shadowing effects of wireless
transmissions for obstacle line of sight (OLOS) pathways
based on the empirically-validated model in [4].
performance optimizations, obstacle locations are stored in a
binary space partition (BSP) and inter-vehicle obstruction
distances are cached. Space limitations prevent inclusion of
simulation performance results, but, anecdotally, the obstacle
shadowing model executes in wall-clock-time similarly to the
Nakagami-m stochastic fading model in ns-3 [3].




These models, along with a VANET simulation script, have

been implemented and contributed to the open source ns-3
network simulation community [3].
Open highway,
residential, and downtown conditions are compared for three
fading scenarios: i) no fading effects, ii) stochastic fast fading
using the Nakagami-m distribution derived from (1), and iii)
the deterministic obstacle shadowing model of this work.
From simulation results, a safety awareness range is
determined analytically by extending the approach in [10].




Results show that deterministic obstacle fading compares

differently than stochastic fading models, such as Nakagami-m.
For example, in short communication ranges for 250 vehicles
in the downtown scenario, PDR degrades more rapidly for the
no fading and Nakagami-m fading than for obstacle shadowing
due to high transmission collisions (i.e., Fig. 2(a)).
Furthermore, as vehicular density increases, awareness range
decreases for both the no fading and Nakagami-m fading
models while remaining fairly constant for the obstacle
shadowing model (i.e., Fig.2(b)).




1 0 0 .0 0 %
D o w n to w n, n o fa d ing , 2 5 0 ve h icle s

N o fa d in g
N ak a g a m i-m fa d in g
O b s ta c le s h a d o w in g

A w a r en e ss R a n g e [m ete rs]

D o w n to w n, N ak a g a m i-m , 2 5 0 v e h ic le s
D o w n to w n, o b s ta c le s ha d ow in g , 2 5 0 ve h icles

8 0 .0 0 %
P ac k e t D e liv e r y R a tio (P D R ) [% ]


6 0 .0 0 %

4 0 .0 0 %




2 0 .0 0 %



0 .00 %

2 00









2 00 0


D is ta n ce [m e ter s]





V eh ic le s

Fig. 2 PDR for 250 vehicles using different fading

models (a) and the safety awareness range for n = 7 out of
10 messages per second (b) in the downtown scenario.

The primary contributions include:

1) An obstacle model built using techniques from
computational geometry and a fast-fading model that uses it,
along with a VANET simulation script, were developed for the
open source ns-3 network simulator community.


2) Simulation results of highway, residential, and

downtown scenarios in the Raleigh, NC area compare
quantitatively the effects of i) deterministic obstacle fading to
ii) stochastic Nakagami-m fading and iii) no fading.



3) A resulting comparison that extends awareness range

determination using simulation results and suggests the
consequences of ignoring obstacles when evaluating VANET
safety application performance.



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