EU is about to make defining decision on V2X market

The European Commission policy group DG Connect has just opened a 12-week consultation, to assess V2X communication in Europe. The consultation will likely be followed by a directive, which could define the standard that should be followed in Europe for V2X communication. However, the EU’s preference for neutrality could still win out on the issue – meaning it could take no further regulatory stance.

The decision will affect the two significant camps in the V2X market; IEEE 802.11p-based DSRC backed by NXP, Denso, VW, Toyota, AutoTalks, and Commsigmia; and the C-V2X backed by Qualcomm, Nokia and several premium automakers. As it currently stands, these two V2X technologies cannot speak the same language, and even interfere with each other – so a decision by DG Connect in favor of one has the potential to kill the other.

In terms of market adoption, the IEEE standard technology has an advantage, in that a small number of ITS-5G vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) projects have already become active in Europe.

The European Union committed to a deployment of 802.11p-based ITS-G5 infrastructure, in 2016, by announcing seven C-ROADS projects, in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, France, Netherlands, Slovenia and UK. Notably, Volkswagen has committed to deploying the technology as standard in models after 2019 – however, VW is also a member of the 5GAA a group in favor of C-V2X.

C-V2X technology can be identified by those that are members of the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA), but no automakers have yet committed to a C-V2X deployment in their vehicles.

Those in the 802.11p-based DSRC camp often characterize C-V2X as unnecessary distraction in the market, that hold up adoption of V2X communication and infrastructure. Whereas those in the C-V2X camp, suggest that both technologies should have a role in the future.

The 5GAA supports a plan to divide the 5.9GHz FCC spectrum band into two segments, with a neutral zone that no one protocol can broadcast in at the same time. However, this would still leave single-protocol vehicles unable to communicate with each other. A division of the 5.9GHz band by a commission directive would favor of C-V2X, but would at least stop the two protocols interfering with each other.

This week, Riot spoke with Onn Haran, CTO of AutoTalks, a vendor of ITS-G5 chips. Haran described that in a meeting of DG Connect, the European Commission’s digital policy department, it was clear regulators would not approve a situation where multiple communication technologies meant different vehicles could not communicate.

Referring to DG Connect consultation, Haran believes Europe’s net neutrality principle could mean no technology preference is expressed. Haran, also argued that failure for two cars to communicate possesses a significant safety risk, which would take precedence over net neutrality.

Haran said a proposed solution was that every C-V2X car must have DSRC as well, because all cars should have DSRC to be able to talk with each other. The C-V2X camp didn’t agree to that because they know that if cars with C-V2X would have to include DSRC as well, C-V2X would just be an unnecessary cost unlikely to be used.

Haran believes that once infrastructure has been installed, and the technology begins appearing in vehicles at scale, that any new technology will need to be backwards compatible, with other infrastructure and cars. If DG Connect were to propose a directive along these lines, Haran believes this would kill C-V2X in Europe as it is currently incompatible with ITS-G5-based DSRC.

There is however no clear mandate from the regulator on which technology to use, meaning that those interested in promoting the C-V2X technologies can legitimately suggest that the market will move in favor of their direction. In addition, the scale of the deployments of ITG-G5 infrastructure is still relatively small, and could be overlooked by the commission.

Some still believe that coexistence could be possible, with technology choices defined by the market status of an automaker – premium OEMs choosing C-V2X and the lower end of the market opting for ITS-G5-based DSRC. However, until this regulatory debate can be settled it is unlikely that any automaker commits further to a V2X communication technology – as automakers hate uncertainty, and there is still a lot up for discussion.

In terms of the readiness of each technology, Qualcomm has announced its first C-V2X silicon for availability in the second half of 2018, but further refinement and certification could take additional iterations of the chip.

The large-scale field tests took 2 years to complete for DSRC. When combined with the automotive development cycle of around 3 years, it could take until 2023-2024 for C-V2X to be tested and introduced into vehicles at scale – whereas ITS-G5 is ready now, just largely undeployed. Haran believes that if automakers were to accelerate introduction of C-V2X they would be putting safety at risk.

Deployments of 802.11p-based DSRC for safety applications has already begun in Japan by Hyundai, Kia and Toyota and the US by GM.

The V2X use cases currently being trialed in the US, are left turn assistance and intersection movement assistance, because they extend over the line of sight-limitations of on board sensors. The US Department of Transport’s research predicts that just these two V2X applications could reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities an average of 20% of vehicle-on-vehicle crashes.

One of the groups most interested in the proliferation of V2X technology are motorcycle groups, as an incoming motor cycle alert feature could save many lives. Fatalities in motorcycles have remained constant for 20 years, while there has been a significant decline in fatalities from other vehicles.

Motorcycles are difficult to spot, and even cameras and radars don’t detect them well. Furthermore, in a third of accidents, the driver couldn’t even see the motorcycle because it was obstructed. V2V communication could help improve safety for other vulnerable road user such as cyclists, horse riders, and even pedestrians.

The other clear use case that could drive adoption is truck platooning, which has already seen several European trials, and offers the opportunity for hauliers to save money on fuel costs. Once approved by regulators, platooning trucks could become a regular feature of Europe’s roads.

More speculatively, Haran cited V2V communication as a means by which an automaker can affordably cut the cost of an autonomous driving system, reducing the current need for 8 cameras and 4 radars, through better sharing of the data those sensors collect. Haran believes the full cost of a DSRC type connectivity module to be in the region of $50-100, depending on the complexity of the architecture – considerably cheaper than a radar.