The world of connected vehicles is a fragmented one when it comes to standards regarding safety, technology and other areas, but the main players in the growing industry are working to change that.
One of the main questions is concerning the technology that enables connected cars and trucks to communicate with each other, traffic lights and other parts of the emerging ecosystem. Companies such as Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia, and Qualcomm are working on a peer-to-peer wireless technology called C-V2X (that is, “cellular-vehicle-to-everything) that has developed to the point that it is being used in vehicle demonstrations.
As the MIT Technology Review described it last week (Aug. 16), the “vehicles send and receive wireless signals 10 times per second and display certain types of information — such as warnings about oncoming pedestrians, storms and accidents — as pop-up alerts on drivers’ windshields or dashboards.”
As well, a demonstration that took place in Colorado earlier this month enabled vehicles with C-V2X chipsets and modems to communicate with traffic lights so that automobiles would know when lights would change — a foreshadowing of having specially equipped vehicles communicate with toll booths, construction signs and other roadside data points.
C-V2X seems to have won the tentative backing of Ford, which recently created a self-driving business unit and has plans to invest $4 billion in autonomous vehicle technology. Ford has provided three vehicles for those demonstrations, though they have not officially committed to the technology standard. The company has joined the 5G Automotive Association, which advocates for C-V2X and includes Audi, BMW, Daimler, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan and Volvo.
Backers of that standard say it can “piggyback on the constant improvements that operators make to their cellular networks,” according to the MIT report. According to those supporters, that is a main reason why C-V2X is better than a competing Wi-Fi-based technology standard called DSRC, which stands for “dedicated short-range communications.”
DRSC has backing from Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, and General Motors. Toyota has called DRSC a “proven technology” that has undergone tough testing. The Trump administration has signaled that instead of mandating a standard, it will let the market decide — a move that, the report noted, could favor DRSC, given Toyota’s heft.
A similar battle is playing out in Europe, though regulators likely will have much more influence than they will in the United States if current trends hold.
The debate pits C-V2X against existing Wi-Fi technology that goes by the moniker ITS-G5. Officials with the European Union, using a process that limits the ability of national governments to alter proposed legislation, plans to propose legislation about the underpinning technology for connected cars in Europe. It remains unclear whether the decision, expected to be announced in fall, would lead to strict technical rules regarding connected cars, or would constitute what some observers have called “soft guidance” about how to connect vehicles to outside networks.
On a more general note, the state of standards for connected vehicles is gaining more attention as the enabling technology makes its way into more cars and trucks, and consumer awareness of those changes increases. An example of this came from the Geneva International Motor Show earlier this year.
Experts from a variety of companies and organizations updated attendees on the progress being made with standards, but the general theme of many of those comments was provided by Christoph Nolte, technical director for DEKRA automotive solutions, which offers vehicle inspection and other services.
“We have a fragmented standards environment,” he said. “We need more standards, and the worldwide use of harmonized standards. Connected cars need a lot of power so new standards for 5G can be the basis for connected vehicle standards.”