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V2X: Creating connectivity for the autonomous car era

V2X communication enhances a sense of connectedness in modern vehicles, and it will play an even more significant role in the autonomous car era.

V2X is short for vehicle-to-everything, a system that enables cars to communicate with compatible networks and devices – including other vehicles and pedestrians – as well as road systems, traffic controls and other infrastructure.

As the car’s communication system, it runs everything from operating systems to sensors, ADAS, contributing to safer driving, lower emissions and more efficient travel.

V2X communication is the technology that can create the necessary connectivity for autonomous vehicles to operate safely, efficiently and reliably.

What are V2X standards?

There are two main competing standards in V2X:

  • IEEE 802.11dp, and
  • C-V2X

IEEE 802.11dp is the older and more established standard. IEEE stands for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and its Wireless Access for Vehicular Environments (WAVE) programme developed this standard based on a Wi-Fi offshoot. It uses an unlicensed 5.9GHz frequency band, and underpins both the European ITS-G5 and the American DSRC (Dedicated Short-range Communications) initiatives.

Using 802.11dp, vehicle-to-everything includes beyond line-of-sight sensors such as cameras, radar and LIDAR (remote sensing using lasers), but also collision warnings, speed limit alerts and electronic parking and toll payments.

The characteristics of 802.11dp combine short ranges of under 1km with low latency and high fidelity.

Even in challenging weather conditions, this standard should enable vehicles to see the extended environment around them and anticipate hazards and other traffic-related issues.

The newcomer to this is the C-V2X standard, which stands for cellular V2X.

With the backing of Qualcomm and the 5G Automotive Association, C-V2X communicates directly, with low latency, over the unlicensed 5.9GHz bandwidth, using the PC5 interface.

PC5 is a reference point where one form of user equipment has direct communication with another, with no need for a base station. This form of communication is ideal for active safety messages and short-range situations.

But C-V2X also uses another communications mode, which is the Uu interface on the regular cellular network. This second mode is good for infotainment-related communications and more latent-tolerant messages, such as long-range hazards and traffic conditions.

Without this cellular connectivity, the 802.11dp standard can only provide the equivalent information by making connections to roadside base stations on an ad hoc basis.

Which is the better V2X standard?

At a basic level, both 802.11dp and C-V2X offer enhanced communications capabilities for vehicles, and can support the continuing development of autonomous cars.

From a market perspective, the incumbent 802.11dp service has an advantage and a head start. But cellular V2X provides the ability to use both direct and network-assisted communication, and plots a logical path towards using 5G.

As things currently stand, certain manufacturers are backing 802.11dp, while other professional voices are raising concerns about favouring this technology over C-V2X when it comes to future automotive development.

One possibility is that, in the future, both standards will somehow come together, combining the strongest points of each.

In the meantime, designers, engineers and manufacturers are concentrating on the technical development of autonomous vehicles and how to ensure their safety and performance for a future mass market.

A hugely important factor in this will be ensuring that the networks these driverless cars depend on will be reliable. This is where network modelling comes in.

What is the role of network modelling in V2X?

Network modelling and simulation tools are established means of protecting critical assets across various industries, including utilities and defence.

They can also help protect and strengthen 5G mobile networks, and are now supporting the design and development of autonomous vehicles.

One specialist tool for network modelling is EXata, from Scalable Network Technologies.

EXata is a network emulator, which enables users to evaluate communications networks by modelling various cyber disruptions and attacks to measure and assess impacts on end users and on network applications.

Self-driving vehicles are heavily dependent on the integrity of the third-party networks they communicate with, and without it, they cannot guarantee road safety and their own interoperability.

The EXata platform can replicate challenging conditions that autonomous vehicles face, which include network interference and cyber-threats.

The Korean Automotive Technology Institute, KATECH, has integrated EXata into its own driving simulation platforms. KATECH is Korea’s R&D institute specialising in R&D for automotive parts.

What is the future for V2X?

The autonomous vehicle is not a speculative, sci-fi concept. It is a dawning reality for the automotive industry and, ultimately, many thousands of end-users.

At the heart of this evolution are vehicle-to-everything communications. There are both challenges and opportunities on various fronts.

Challenges include the competing standards, and what shape the 5G rollout will eventually take.

Opportunities include the growing market for V2X, with some marketing intelligence predicting a huge increase of global spending on these technologies, at a compound annual growth rate of 170 per cent.

Network modelling can support this growth, with wireless simulation that includes vehicle mobility, urban environments, and connectivity issues such as fading, path loss and interference.

With our partner Scalable Technology Solutions, we are hosting a webinar about the future of V2X, network modelling and simulation tools, and EXata software: Connectivity: The Autonomous Car Era.

Register for the webinar here.

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