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C-V2X drives new standards for connected car experiences

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Manfred Lindacher,
Vice President of Global Sales, Automotive International
Mark Murray
Mark Murray,
Vice President of Sales for GNSS and Automotive, Quectel Wireless Solutions

There is now significant global development behind cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) technologies which are bringing together the automotive and cellular industries to make the future of connected cars a reality. However, further development of the ecosystem, standardization and ubiquitous high bandwidth cellular coverage globally are still required to bring the complete dream to fruition, write Manfred Lindacher, the Vice President of Global Sales Automotive International, and Mark Murray, the Vice President of Sales for GNSS and Automotive at Quectel Wireless Solutions.

Although completion of the C-V2X standard was completed in 2017, it is only since 2020 that the earliest vehicles have hit the road with 5G capability which is vital to enable all the new in-vehicle functionality that auto makers have been developing. Certainly, future applications such as assisted driving rely on ubiquitous 5G and availability of comprehensive coverage will truly unlock C-V2X use cases. However, C-V2X isn’t solely reliant on 5G and the first programs the market has seen have been either 5G standalone (SA) or in combination with LTE.

With the latest 5G standard, 3GPP Release 16, C-V2X will benefit further because of the additional functionalities enabled by ultra-low latency and increased bandwidth which have obvious benefits for automotive applications. C-V2X communications will harness the power of 5G to increase infotainment options and enable more cars to talk to each other at the same time while simultaneously offering improved safety features. All of this will happen without congestion or service interruptions enabling cars to be in constant communication with other vehicles, people and road infrastructure.

In 2021, much of this is for the future but steps are being taken and, generally speaking, progress is clear to see. Research firm IHS Markit has reported that only a handful of vehicle makers launched vehicles onto the road with 5G capability in 2020 but it predicts that more than 70 auto brands will support 5G by 2023. Global tech advisory firm ABI Research has projected that a total of 41 million 5G connected cars will already be on roads by 2030 and this number is set to increase to 83 million 5G connected cars by 2035. By then, 5G connected cars will make up more than three-quarters of the total C-V2X equipped cars.

In the C-V2X arena, the stakes are higher because the consequences of network failure or even degradation could be fatal. In addition, as more people rely on the new experiences that C-V2X enables, what is first seen as a great benefit can swiftly turn to a negative experience that damages service providers and auto makers’ reputations if it doesn’t perform as expected all the time. This means that only those that can demonstrate robust and resilient C-V2X connectivity systems will be selected.

There are also some significant inconsistencies to consider. The automotive market is global with products developed to serve multiple countries with only minor adaptations made to conform with regional or national legislation. On the other hand, the communications market is highly fragmented with widely varying local regulation, different approaches to standardization, testing and trials and a range of different 5G roll-out speeds.

In the US, regulation is now heading in the right direction. Spectrum allocation for C-V2X has been completed and OEMs are preparing to support the technology. In Europe, however, regulation is still a work in progress and some parts of the industry still support dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) which C-V2X has replaced in the US. In China, the technical decision to roll-out C-V2X has been taken and the government is supporting testing on infrastructure pilot projects.

There are significant differences to be reconciled across the global market and a clear regulatory environment is essential to ensure investment in the C-V2X industry is secured. The 5G Automotive Association is doing a good job to contribute and define standards along with other stakeholder industries such as mobile network operators and these efforts, which involve significant cross-industry collaboration are driving standards forward and creating a global industry around C-V2X.

The appetite certainly exists. Ford, for example, has already announced new car models equipped with C-V2X for 2021 and other automotive heavyweights Audi, BMW and Volkswagen have all partnered with network equipment vendors for large-scale trials to test cellular technology for connected car use cases. The results of these proof-of-concept projects are positive and show that among other features and benefits 5G can reduce fuel consumption by up to one third by improving traffic efficiency.

It’s clear from this and our conversations with customers that most automotive OEMs are committed to C-V2X and 5G and they have already decided on their C-V2X solutions or are in the final phase of specification. Our role here is offer a comprehensive range of standalone C-V2X and cellular modems that support both LTE and 5G. LTE support is important because it enables trials and early applications to be rolled out across large coverage areas. It is also vital in setting up business models and seeding early adopter markets with appealing experiences and use cases.

Ultimately, as understanding and familiarity with the capabilities of C-V2X grows and 5G coverage becomes ubiquitous, the automotive industry will innovate further and harness the full power of C-V2X with 5G being the preferred cellular connectivity. Our role is to help our partners develop solutions that cover all possible customer applications with robust, resilient C-V2X connectivity, providing an upgrade path from LTE to 5G and assisting with standards-compliant modules.

This will help turn ideas such as assisted and later automated driving into reality. In the near-to-medium terms enable improved traffic flows, safer – potentially life-saving – driving, better infotainment and reduced environmental impact. We’ll see concepts such as platooning of truck convoys become the norm, increasing efficiency and reducing fuel consumption. We’ll also see the integration of vehicles with smart city infrastructure which will help to reduce traffic congestion and enable easier parking and routing through urban areas. We’re proud to be playing our part in enabling cellular vehicle-to-everything communications and helping to build a smarter world.

Read our automotive white paper ‘From here to autonomy: How to fulfil the requirements of the next generation connected car’