Vehicle to everything (V2X) communication is a major automotive trend which can provide
better and safer travel, but to implement it needs commitment, says Holger Rosier.
The first key aspect V2X will need to encompass is continuous connection to cloud services. Many new models include support for the vehicle, including condition monitoring and maintenance alerts, 24-hour accident and breakdown assistance, and other services such as entertainment and location-based information.
There is a strong business case for this aspect of V2X communication. OEMs’ platforms are expected to thrive with increasingly diverse service‑provider partnerships for greater choice and affordability of services.
The second major component of V2X is often referred to as co-operative intelligent transportation systems (C-ITS). This provides the premise for vehicles to communicate continuously and autonomously among themselves as well as with other road users and infrastructure such as traffic signs.
By continuously broadcasting information, such as their position, speed and heading, updated every few hundred milliseconds, vehicles equipped with this technology can alert other road users to their presence and intentions. Clearly, C-ITS communications are mission‑critical and time-sensitive.
C-ITS brings many opportunities to improve road safety and work towards the vision of having zero fatal accidents on our roads, but there are challenges.
Without widespread market penetration, vehicles that are equipped with the technology face a high probability of having accidents with those that are not.
There are several obstacles to widespread adoption, including technical choices, regulatory issues, and the sheer size of the commitment required on the part of the automotive industry. Adequate penetration is expected by about the middle of the next decade.
C-ITS embraces both long-range communications via LTE and, in the future, 5G cellular networks, as well as direct communication among vehicles, other road users and infrastructure over short distances. Direct communication requires no network infrastructure or network operator involvement. Both cellular (C-V2X) and WLAN‑based technologies have been proposed.
The WLAN‑based standard, IEEE 802.11p, has narrower bandwidth than the established WLAN standards and supports ad hoc communication. It is the technology at the heart of IEEE 1609 Wireless Access for Vehicular Environments (Wave) active in the US and ETSI ITS-G5 in Europe.
The cellular (mobile) approach, on the other hand, leverages the 4G LTE-V2X PC5 interface. While some mobile vehicle-to-network communications are likely to transition to 5G, vehicle‑to‑vehicle (V2V), vehicle‑to‑pedestrian and vehicle‑to‑infrastructure (V2I) communications will continue to require testing and approval against the existing 4G LTE standards for the foreseeable future. Spectrum has been set aside in the 5.9GHz band for direct communication in territories including the US, Europe and China, with China expected to lead the way in cellular vehicle to everything (C-V2X).
Services based on cellular direct communication are scheduled to begin in China in 2021, and in the US in 2022. Industries are advocating for regulators to remain technology‑neutral, which should allow developers the freedom to create high-quality equipment that is functional, scalable and future-proof.
The industry, however, must commit significant resources to develop solutions based on either technology, with the ever-present risk that a choice will become obsolete.
Governments could provide a catalyst for C-ITS by beginning deployment of smart infrastructure to provide services such as broadcasting information about road conditions to approaching vehicles. This would require the authorities to choose a preferred technology, or a dual‑radio approach, either of which could create the conditions for vehicle manufacturers to integrate C-ITS systems.
Clearly, extensive work remains to be done to enable large scale market adoption of C-ITS leveraging either Wave/ETSI ITS‑G5 or mobile 4G LTE‑V2X PC5.
Industry bodies such as the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA) are driving evaluations and large-scale trials. The 5GAA is also working to promote a harmonised testing programme for C‑V2X. It is important to test realistic scenarios with real hardware, including testing technical concepts on the highways, in addition to low‑level RF conformance testing.
Commercial organisations with expertise in wireless design and testing have a role to play, too. RF test providers contribute to the standards organisations and other groups that are developing C‑ITS to realise the potential for greater safety on our roads.