The way our cities look, and the way we move through them, is set to change—and soon. Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything, or C-V2X, is poised to transform cities with connected traffic flows, reducing congestion and making our roads safer and less polluted.
It’s fast becoming the platform of choice for experts and manufacturers, with competitors including Ford and Audi joining forces to achieve a network of joined-up vehicles and cities that work together, and communicate with each other.
From platoons of self-driving vehicles to cars that can talk to buildings and traffic lights, C-V2X is a real game-changer.
C-V2X and the city
Speedy communication between road users and city infrastructure, from traffic lights to sensors on buildings, is a crucial building block in developing smart cities. The technology could enable the automated collection of road tolls, for example.
As drivers are increasingly able to plan ahead and avoid traffic jams and collisions, this will have a positive effect on a city’s mobility—and make it easier for people to get where they’re going, faster.
How C-V2X works
A report by GSMA, a trade body for mobile network operators, describes C-V2X as a technology “designed to connect vehicles to each other, to roadside infrastructure, to other road-users and to cloud-based services.”
It works by transmitting from vehicle to vehicle, between vehicles and infrastructure, and between vehicles and other road users. It also uses the mobile network to relay information about road conditions and traffic. In this way, a vehicle could receive warnings of poor visibility, pedestrians or cyclists around the corner, or emergency vehicles approaching.
Earlier technologies were based on WLAN, rather than cellular, technology. Dedicated Short-Range Communication (DSRC) enables vehicles to communicate with each other while bypassing the need for dedicated infrastructure.
For C-V2X fans, though, the infrastructure—and the cellular technology’s ability to communicate with it—is where the newer platform has the advantage.
Don Butler, Executive Director of Ford Connected Vehicle Platform and Product, comments in a blog post: “Communicating with infrastructure such as stoplights and road signs... means cities have even easier ways of making sure drivers get the information they need to move more freely and safely.”
Faster with 5G
Next-gen mobile networks will have the power to process the technology and enable connections at lightning speeds.
Butler, whose blog post coincided with Ford’s announcement that it is committed to deploying C-V2X in all new vehicle models in the US from 2022, commented that this technology has been developed with 5G compatibility in mind.
He writes: “Planned alongside the rapidly building 5G cellular network, C-V2X enables direct communication between the connected devices, meaning a signal doesn’t need to first travel to a cellular tower, allowing vehicles to quickly send and receive information. Ultimately, it lets drivers know what’s ahead of them even before they have to encounter it.”
The GSMA agrees, adding: “C-V2X is designed to be fully compatible with forthcoming 5G mobile technologies, meaning investments in infrastructure and modules today will be future-proof.”
Pioneers of C-V2X
While Ford has cast perhaps the biggest vote of confidence in the technology, several other manufacturers are backing C-V2X as the platform of choice.
Qualcomm, which designs and markets wireless telecommunications products, is working with several car manufacturers, including Ford, Nissan and Audi, to trial C-V2X technology, aiming to develop a “comprehensive ecosystem”.
Director of Technical Marketing for Qualcomm, Maged Zaki, writes in a blog post: “It’s not only Ford and Qualcomm, but a comprehensive ecosystem that is working on the technology to make it happen, including other global automobile OEMs, tier-1 suppliers, test equipment vendors, chipset manufacturers, telecom suppliers, traffic signal suppliers, road operators, and wireless operators.”
Making autonomous vehicles possible
The role of C-V2X could go way beyond helping road users to see around corners—enabling autonomous, self-driving cars, which can communicate their precise position to other cars and sensors, and accurately detect pedestrians and traffic lights.
This could help develop convoys or “platoons” with smaller gaps between vehicles than is safe with human drivers, with the benefit of reducing use of road space, saving fuel and increasing efficiency when transporting goods.
“As 5G will be able to support very large numbers of connections in a small area, individual vehicles will be able to capture more data about their immediate surroundings,” says GSMA. “Ultimately, C-V2X will play a pivotal role in enabling the deployment of fully autonomous vehicles, which will transform the way people travel.”